A FEW years back, I had an epiphany in the JCC bleachers. It was the playoffs in the second grade basketball league, and I was having a hard time concentrating on the game because of all the yelling parents.
The vibe reminded me of when I was in grad school at Duke and we were playing University of North Carolina (UNC) in the Final Four. Except the Duke and UNC fans were a little more relaxed and less critical of the players.
(To my right side) What on earth are you doing Josh, I showed you how to dribble the ball. Wait a minute, youre going the wrong direction!
(To my left side) Listen to your coach, Elan. No, not that coach the smart one!
(To my backside) Oh, come on Jared, with shots like that, youll never be the first Jew in the NBA.
Normally, I might have been shouting right along with the other parents, but that particular day I was having some kind of outer body experience landing me center court in Josh, Elan and Jareds sneakers. I could suddenly see how stressful it was to be expected to perform masterful basketball moves in front of a whole lot of people when all you really want to do is shoot some hoops with your friends.
It occurred to me that we parents were suffering from was a severe case of big picture deprivation, having completely lost sight of what wed set out to accomplish in raising children.
I felt certain that if I polled those moms and dads in the bleachers right then and there about their ultimate purpose in parenting raising a kid who can score a 3-point basket with his eyes closed was unlikely to get top billing. Still, somewhere along the way, wed let all the societal pressure about who and what our kids should be eclipse the big picture.
ITS like we were all trying to do a jigsaw puzzle that had been stored in a plastic bag.
In my house we have tons of them. Somebody stepped on the box or something, so we had put all of the pieces in a Ziploc. Which usually worked for a while, but by the time we got a few kids down the road, nobody had any idea of what kind of puzzle it was in the first place.
Were we supposed to be putting together a firetruck or the Eiffel Tower? A golden retriever or the Titanic?
So wed start randomly grabbing pieces and trying to fit them together. Or maybe wed take a more organized approach dividing them into colors.
But we still didnt have any real sense of what we trying to create. We were basically just taking stabs in the dark hoping it would all come together somehow.
But then lets say on a slim chance that we happened to find that original puzzle box stashed under a bunch of toys in the closet. It might have been a bit bent and stepped on, but that didnt matter because we could finally see the big picture. All those all those little disconnected pieces werent disconnected pieces anymore because theyd just taken on brand new meaning as the building blocks of a completely cool Harry Potter Castle.
Suddenly the task of doing that puzzle didnt seem so stressful anymore. It actually seemed kind of exciting and fun.
RAISING children is really no different than doing a jigsaw puzzle. Without a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish a parents, we feel overwhelmed and confused.
We spend our days plowing through seemingly disconnected pieces school, playdates, 2nd grade basketball tournaments in a state of perpetual stress.
But if we can manage to make out the big picture on the front of the box what we really want for our kids both today and long into the future then everything changes, were invigorated with new purpose and direction, and all those tiny disconnected pieces miraculously begin fall into place.
THE High Holidays provide us the ideal opportunity to step out of the hustle and bustle of modern family life and focus in on our big Jewish parenting picture. To remember what wed originally set out to do all those years ago when our puzzles were still brand new and our purpose in childrearing was still pure and unscathed by modern societal pressures.
In doing so we can all help ensure that the coming year (and many others beyond that) be richer and more fulfilling for our families.
May the year 5770 be one of peace, happiness, and crystal clear big pictures for each of you.