Battle Picking is an Art Form

Sigh. During the school year the boys get up at the crack of dawn without a whimper. I wake them up, they get a 5 minute grace period (if the coffee is excellent, maybe 7 minutes) and then they know that Ima is coming. Fate worse than death to have Ima nagging in the morning, so up they get.

Summertime and the living is easy. When you’re a kid. When you have no bills to pay and no work to finish. Getting up becomes difficult.

I don’t expect a lot from the kids in these lazy days of summer – shower often, wear deodorant, keep your room clean and go to shul morning and evening. I don’t expect them to make the 7 am minyan (prayer service), but the 8 am – for sure.

It’s been a struggle for them, and while they were away for 3 weeks it was not my problem. But my house, my rules. We feed and clothe them, they have all the necessities of life handed to them on a plate ( a luxury or two as well – ice cream…) and we expect little in return other than respect, peace and harmony. (Ha!)

So this morning I had a conversation with the middle two – oldest one is working out of town – about making it on time for davening (praying) and staying for the whole service. The boys agreed that I had a point and from now on will make more of an effort.


Except. I went grocery shopping this evening. I had a fever, my head hurt, my neck was in agony, and I was as cranky as ever (Right KoD??). I called on the way home that I would be home in ten minutes, please come outside and unload the car for me. But Ima, says the teen, by the time you get home we will need to have left for mincha / maariv (evening prayers). I wanted to just respond that honouring your mother by unloading groceries was more important, but really – was it?

Insisting that they stay home to help me would totally have negated everything I had said this morning. But I needed their help. I had a conundrum.

I cogitated the whole way home. Got home and phew, they were still there. Between the two of them they emptied the trunk lickety spit, and then I drove them to shul, getting them there just in time.

It all worked out in the end, but how do you teach a child that yes, God does come first, but sometimes, Ima has to come first too?

15 responses to “Battle Picking is an Art Form

  1. Good one. Could the groceries have waited until after mincha? Unless they stay for maariv, which can be a long time between the two of them…

    I can’t wait till the day that my kid is carrying my groceries…

    • too hot to leave the groceries in the car that long – if it were winter, sure.
      Yeah – I love that the boybies are big enough to help rather than “help”.

      • Oh yes, we know all about “help” – he empties my cabinets and dumps my flatware into the garbage can. Oh yeah.

        I’d probably carry in the ice cream myself and daven that the rest shouldn’t spoil while my kids are engrossed in holy prayer.

  2. Tricky one! I’m glad they were still there *and* made it to mincha on time … were they there because they waited for you, by any chance??

    • I told them on the phone not to wait…. I think 2 more minutes and they would have left.

      • Trust me, when they have wives and kids, the wives and kids will appreciate that they managed to do both davening and helping out their Ima (or later on, their wives and kids). I’ve seen men walk out to daven while the kids are going mad and their wives are sick or not sick but going crazy from sleep deprivation. There’s got to be some balance and this time, you achieved it thank G-d. You have nice boys. I’m glad they take care of their Ima. They made the right decision. You’ve raised them well.

        • Trust me, a bratty kid would have complained and said BUT IMA YOU SAID…and used the opportunity to turn this around on you and mess with your house rules. I’ve seen it. I’m really glad that’s not the case with your boys.

  3. That would be tough…you told them to go to shul, but you also need their help at the same time.

    Maybe this won’t be an issue in the next few years, but eventually the boys may develop more common sense and realize that they do not have to always behave the same way every time. Helping Ima is kibud av v’em, which is important; at this time that may outrank the requirement to be at shul on time (they can easily catch up to the davening). Maybe they haven’t quite gotten the idea that every directive may not always be taken literally and thought that you were contradicting yourself (you weren’t); they’ll develop the maturity to weigh the decisions correctly.

  4. Well, it’s an important lesson. That sometimes, there are these emergencies where we can’t do what needs to and should be done but those moments are rare. If you have to go to the hospital on Shabbos, you have to go but it’s not something we do just because, you know?

    My mother left it to me to get all three of us out the door in the mornings but she was the one who pushed us out to church at the crack of dawn for classes and services (okay, it didn’t work out because none of us are obviously religious and were probably Jewish in the first pace but still!). She would join us later. Of course, not the same commitment of getting to shul everyday twice or three times a day.

    I think that it is admirable that you push them this way Jewishly to do what they have to do and I think that it will go with them through life and affect many things, not just their religiosity but their overall dedication to things and what needs to be done.

  5. while not being a posek (decisor of jewish law), i do enjoy making halachic (jewish legal) decisions. so….here goes:

    dovening with a minyan at shul is very important. it takes precedence over many other things. but, not over everything. for example (from last week’s rav mann’s Q&A), someone who must eat before dovening (and therefore would miss minyan and wind up dovening at home) may do so.

    you have every right as ima to expect that your kids will help you if you tell them to help you. honoring parents is way up there too. (ok, all the mitzvot are way up there….). both the Torah and talmud go out of their way to let us know how important this mitzvah is – rewards of long life, stories of those who bent over backwards to honor their parents (like not waking the abba who was sleeping even though a business deal would be lost over it), etc.

    and so, the winner is……honoring parents. BUT, only – ONLY – if it is on occasion – that is, you can not make them miss minyan every day just to help with the groceries. once a week is probably ok.

    and between us, it is also ok to be late for dovening sometimes, especially if you were doing another mitzvah. there are many stories about this too (the rav who is late for kol nidre on yom kippur because he was busy with another mitzvah), etc.

    teach them that both mitzvahs are important. but one does take precedence under certain circumstances.

  6. “It all worked out in the end, but how do you teach a child that yes, God does come first, but sometimes, Ima has to come first too?”

    That’s very, very tricky. Because if you use your authority to tell them g-d is most important, you cannot possibly tell them that Ima is more important.

    Because then, it is also just about what IMA wants and has nothing to do with G-d any more. It’s like Ima abusing G-d’s authority to have her children do whatever she wants.

  7. Davening with a minyan is rabbinic, honoring/ respecting/ assisting your mother is a biblical mitzva. Halacha is quite clear on this, and THAT is a very important lesson to teach kids: Know halacha, and be flexible enough to do the Right thing even if it isn’t always obvious.

  8. I think that that flexibility comes with maturity–the instinct of knowing–yes, I should be at minyan, but my mother needs me right now for today this is more important. Of course, the “sechel”–common sense is not always present in adults (I still get mad when I think about the time I walked into a classroom where six multiply handicapped children were laying on the floor, not being paid attention to at all because the woman who was supposed to be stimulating them in some way was davening). But your kids seem to be well on the way to being men with that “sechel” so I wouldn’t worry about it.

What do YOU think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s