Dear Tunester, Today I give you my resolution for 2023 and what I learned about parenting from living in Israel for the last year and a half.
Happy new year dear Tunester! It’s 2023! Do you have a resolution for this year? Here’s mine…
A friend of mine was over recently when she asked my eldest, whose arms were crossed in front of his chest, what was written on his shirt. He grunted and didn’t make a move to bring his arms down.
I waited a second, and then instinctively reached over and opened his arms.
My friend shot me a disapproving look and said- “Why did you do that?”
And I thought – Why had I done that? It’s not like my friend had a burning curiosity about the shirt (which, by the way, was adorable. It had a picture of a guitar and a ukulele and the guitar was saying to the uke – “Uke, I am your father.”) She was just trying to engage him in a non-threatening way.
Meanwhile, I was stuck in a moment of anxiety – I so wanted him to be personable with her, for her to love him, for him to love her, that without realizing it I intervened and possibly made him feel uncomfortable.
And that leads me to the lesson I’ve learned during my last year and a half in israel – let the kids be.
So My Resolution for 2023 –
LET THE KIDS BE.
And along with it, because our attitude to our kids is completely intertwined with our attitude to ourselves,
LET MYSELF BE.
This lesson is contrary to every grain in my body – I was raised in a family where success is expected and prowess is to be displayed. I was also raised in the US where life is showy. Instagram perfectly showcases family success, parenting wins, vacation fun, career accomplishments.
I come by it honestly. It’s in my genes and my Levi’s jeans. But being in Israel has challenged that.
Letting the kids be means not getting caught up in how my son’s behavior looks to others, what he should or shouldn’t be doing.
It means having a clear sense of where my job begins and where it ENDS. As a mom, my job is to keep the kids safe, give them love, and slowly teach skills that will help them live independently and have a gratifying life.
It is NOT to ensure their success or achievements, to manipulate how others see them, or to make them seem cool, smart, beautiful, charming, talented, in the eyes of others.
Letting the kids be means trusting their process completely. When your baby cries through dinner at a restaurant, your toddler whines at music class, your kid is challenged at school, or your pre-teen doesn’t have a social life or is acting out at home, it means accepting them AS IS while continuing to do your job (safety, love, teach skills.)
It’s tempting to make a sweeping, Bringing Up Bebe-type statement about Israeli culture and the way they raise their kids, but my research sample is narrow.
I can say that from what I’ve seen, Israeli parents are very trusting of their kids. School age kids roam around the neighborhood on their own, and highschoolers have co-ed sleepovers. My son’s highschool gives them 3 “mental health days” that they can use any time during the year to skip school.
Also, if you’ve never been to Israel, you might be shocked to see teenagers in the army wielding rifles on the crosstown bus 😳
In America, from my experience, the child is held under the parents wing for longer, and along with it comes the feeling that the kids’ successes are interlinked with the parents’.
When I was living in New York I remember feeling a need for my kids to be perceived a certain way – smart, active, social. It probably had a lot to do with my stage of motherhood, my community, and everything to do with who I am.
But this year I’ve been available to learn a new way. My husband has played a big part. He’s been instrumental in teaching me to let myself be because he does it so effortlessly. Here’s a song I recently wrote about it.
Even in the midst of my current midlife identity crisis, I’ve been able to be more patient and compassionate to myself.
That’s why you’re only getting this New Years post now, two days after 2023 began. Because I let myself be. I didn’t disrupt our family’s weekend or end of year celebrations. I knew there would be time to circle back around and connect to you all.
So dear Tunester, what can you do this year to let your kids be? To trust their process and growth even if it looks different from what you expect? They’re wonderful, they’re doing exactly what they need to be doing, and your love is allowing them to be exactly who they are.
P.S. After I wrote this I went back and looked at my resolution for 2022 to see how/if I’ve grown. It’s similar, I take it a step further this year in a way I couldn’t have imagined.