Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Telescope Parenting

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

by Sam Glaser


jesse telescope

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was our bible for the first few years of family life.  Soon thereafter, we let the instinct that we developed from our own upbringing take over, and thanks to the fact that my wife and I were raised by loving parents, we had pretty good role models on whom to rely.  When your kids start speaking after about a year, they tell you what they need and save you from having to run back to the book with every crying jag.  We seem to be doing all right in that our kids are in good shape, get along well with others and keep up with their schoolwork, thank God.  Once in a while we panic, usually because one of them is falling off the minimum line of the development chart or because there’s a playground bully on the loose.  But most of the time, at least for me, bringing up children has been the single most fulfilling, awe-inspiring experience of my life.


I practice Telescope Parenting.  I love watching my kids run around in public and get great amusement seeing what they may do.  I let them pick the agenda, interact with whomever they choose and climb or explore at will.  This works great on hikes, at the beach or when visiting museums or shopping malls, where kids can safely wander and express themselves.  It’s always interesting to see who will get amusement out of their antics, who will initiate conversation and who is looking around for the irresponsible guardian that set the kids loose.  I want my kids to feel that the world is safe so that they develop a sense of confidence and learn to make good judgment calls in any situation.  Of course, I can only be anonymous until they run back to my arms or there is a need to intercede.  But in the meantime, I get the great joy of observing their innocence and exuberance, something that would impossible if I were to act as a Helicopter Parent, interrupting their explorations with the cacophony of shrill rotors overhead in the form of claustrophobic supervision.


I came up with this telescope term after witnessing the behavior of parents who transmit their own fear and anxiety to their unwitting progeny.  I want nothing to do with such shenanigans and I have learned catch myself when I start to go into this insecure, overly involved helicopter mode. Telescope Parenting requires giving children the space to make their own decisions.  My wife and I realized early on that it’s better for the kid and the parent/child relationship to offer a choice rather than a command.  It can be as simple as, “Would you like to go to bed now or in ten minutes.”  As human beings with free choice, they crave the opportunity to make their own decisions.  By offering a few alternatives, we keep the response in the realm of our preference.  Allowing them to make choices also requires that they live with the consequences of bad decisions.  “Are you sure you won’t put on sunscreen for our day at the beach?  I don’t want to see you get sunburned!”  When they can’t sleep that night because their shoulders are fried they put up much less of a fight the next time.  (We call it “sunscream” because that is what my kids usually do when we try to apply it.)  I try to avoid grandmotherly warnings like, “Wear a jacket or you’ll catch a cold,” or, “Don’t go that way or you’ll fall.” In other words, I choose my words carefully and believe in their power…I don’t want to unconsciously place a curse on my children!  There are times when offering kids choices isn’t going to work and you have to lay down the law.  Hopefully your kids intuit the difference since they usually do get a choice; when none is presented, there must be a good reason.


Helicopter Parenting yields unexpected repercussions.  Dr. Deborah Gilboa reports


that the very consequences that such parents are trying to prevent are the best teachers of life lessons, lessons that could have served to make that overprotected kid into a mensch.  Children who are accustomed to having their needs micromanaged expect to always get their way and develop a sense of entitlement.  By “protecting” their children’s self esteem such parents send the message that “my mom doesn’t trust me to do this on my own” and therefore the child’s confidence plummets.  Such kids often graduate high school with undeveloped life skills since their parents are compelled to do everything for them.  According to a University of Mary Washington study, overparenting is associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression.  While all cultures have their helicopter parents, I’m guessing that the Jewish People have cornered the market.


Yes, there are caveats to Telescope Parenting.  My kids fall and scrape knees.  Sometimes I bring them home muddy, wet and/or sticky.  They can wander too far for comfort and I have to frantically chase them down.  Some folks with whom they interact are too friendly or freaky or inebriated.  But even the sad souls are deserving of conversation or curiosity from my adventurous youngsters.  They have witnessed their dad not only giving tzedakah to anyone who asks but also engaging these human beings in genuine conversation.  I believe in the precept from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) that one who is wise learns from everyone.  Our best outings include learning about fishing from those who fish for their supper on the Santa Monica pier.  My kids have witnessed the ills of drug abuse by riding bikes amongst the homeless on the Venice boardwalk and negotiating with the hippies selling homemade jewelry.  I recognize that we live in a homogenous neighborhood with schools where every last kid is Jewish.  I feel compelled to expose them to the melting pot of society so that they fall in love with humanity and are open hearted to differences.


I have chosen to live in a world of honesty and security.  That doesn’t mean I leave my wallet out at the shopping mall or my car unlocked in funky neighborhoods.  But when we go to the beach we set up camp with our towels and snacks and leave them unguarded for hours when we take long walks.  I let strangers borrow my iPhone.  Bikes and toys can stay overnight on the front lawn.  Acting with cavalier naiveté can backfire of course.  But I’d rather take a hit once in a while than live in a state of paranoia.  I want my kids to feel that they are off the leash, that they are making their own (age appropriate) decisions and that they can trust their fellow man.  I teach them that 99% of the people they will meet are nice, that strangers are just friends they haven’t yet met.  Yes, from time to time they may encounter the evil 1%, God forbid, but in the meantime they will feel safe and happy in a world of goodness.


I also have taught my children to be aware of danger, to trust their sixth sense and act on it.  In the made-up stories that I tell them nightly I include sagas of surviving natural disasters, stampedes at crowded sporting events and finding out that the person you thought you could beat up has a concealed weapon.  Openness and wonderment does not necessarily need to include being a sucker.  When they do meet a member of that 1% club they need to realize that this is not someone with whom they should hang out or trust; and if they are pursued, to run fast.  By exposing them to unsavory types I try to give them a taste of what that sixth sense might feel like.  The Talmud instructs parents to teach kids how to swim.  I believe that is a mashal (example) recommending teaching them to navigate the stormy seas of life; how to “watch their butt” in dangerous situations and “kick butt” when they must.


I think many parents don’t quite realize what a profound influence their actions have on their kids.  I believe our children are watching our every move and storing the data in a seldom seen long-term databank for access over their lifetimes.  We had a billboard in our neighborhood that stated: “Parents, the Anti-Drug,” requesting that parents have heart-to-heart conversations about life matters even if they believe their kids will ignore them.  I can state from experience that as a middle-age dad I still care what my parents think and in a subconscious way want to please them.  Parental concern and guidance supports the natural development of conscience in the child, even teenagers!  Dennis Prager states that children are born selfish and narcissistic and it’s up to parents to teach them goodness and ethical behavior.  We certainly can’t rely upon public schools for values education. Telescope Parents recognize that there is no sense in trying to shield their children from the vicissitudes of life.  This is the “field” on which values are taught.  Even our preteens are aware when cash flow is tight but they also see that it doesn’t vanquish our shalom bayit (peace in the home.)  They have witnessed me paying back a cashier when I received too much change. I am careful to pay full price admission to Disneyland for my ten-year-old; he can read that he is too old for the child ticket and getting him to lie would unravel years of integrity training.  I even drag my kids to shiva minyanim (services to pay respect for the deceased) so that they share in that powerful realization that time is precious and that it’s important to cherish their loved ones.


My wife and I realize that we are modeling how to treat one’s spouse and that we are constantly teaching unspoken lessons that will hopefully result in successful relationships for our offspring.  We are very candid with our unabashed love for one another.  Even though it embarrasses our kids, I get down on my knees and gaze lovingly at my wife every Friday night when I sing Aishes Chayil (the traditional salute to a virtuous wife.) We attempt to resolve conflicts peacefully and don’t let sharp word exchanges escalate.  At least I don’t, and it takes two to tango. We have weekly date nights so that our kids see that people who love each other make time for each other.  We never engage in lashon harah (slander) about each other to anyone, especially our kids.  On one Shabbas we had a guest who kept affectionately dissing her humble husband throughout the meal. Each time my daughter would shoot me a look that said, “I know that’s not OK!”


Sometimes I think that parents should be licensed have children, much like a contractor or doctor needs documentation asserting that they have a certain degree of training and ethical behavior.  Couples need to get their own acts together before planning a family.  Helicopter Parents are typically just overbearing and insecure, not psychopathic. But those with significant personality problems or addictions who get married in an attempt to be less miserable must take radical measures not inflict these issues onto the next generation. One’s choice to smoke, gamble, watch porn or abuse substances has a direct affect on the family.  Recent studies indicate that the probability of a child’s smoking doubles if one parent smokes and quadruples if both parents smoke.  I would bet that the same is true for alcohol and pot abuse.  We also have to model healthy behaviors like wearing seatbelts, eating right and staying in shape.  A Norwegian National Health Survey demonstrates that the probability of a young adult’s abstaining from junk food is five times higher if one of his parents had a low fat intake. How many obese parents have I seen with oversized kids?  Part of responsible parenting is realizing that one’s vices affect everybody.  Keeping those vices behind closed doors is also damaging.  Please pardon my soapbox moment, but those secret addictions to which you feel entitled or cannot stop create a soul sucking “double life” that tarnishes your very being. By definition, you have eliminated your personal integrity since your personhood is split into a public angel and a private deviate.  OK, I’m off the soapbox.


Since I try to cover the Jewish angle in my writing I feel compelled to cover the hot topic subject of continuity. How can we pass Jewish values to the next generation?  How can we stem the tide of assimilation and combat ignorance of our precious heritage?  Millions of dollars are being spent to answer this question with programs like school and camp scholarships, Birthright and Hillel. No movement is exempt; even the Orthodox panic that the young generations will opt for the secular rather than the sacred when they are old enough to choose their own lifestyles.  The Kotzker Rebbe was asked how one could make his or her kids devoted to Torah.  The rebbe answered, “If you really want them to do this, then you yourself must spend time over the Torah, and they will do as you do. Otherwise they will not devote themselves to the Torah, but only tell their children to do it. And so it will go on.”  In other words, if we model commitment, we get commitment, if we model lip service, we get lip service.  We are more likely to pass on the legacy of our actions than our philosophy.


While I graciously let my wife suffer through the math textbooks, I go out of my way to assist with their Judaic homework.  I let my young scholars know that I also am learning from what we are discussing and I get an unspeakably sweet jolt of nachas when they find a chiddush (a novel thought.)  Helicopter parents feel compelled to press an agenda about their children’s curricula.  Teachers and administrators see them coming and hide.  Telescope parents realize that their offspring have their own unique needs and the school can’t be counted upon to meet all of them.  In Mishlei (Proverbs) King Solomon states, “Educate a child according to his or her way, even when he grows old he will not turn away from it.” Some kids are aural learners, some are kinesthetic.  Some great at science, some find algebra odious.  Within the realm of Torah there are so many ways to get into it.  A crucial part of raising Jewish kids is helping children find their “way” and reassuring them that their way is ideal for them.  Parents of day school kids must be prepared to supplement beyond the standard Talmud-based curriculum for those kids who don’t have a “Gemara Kup” (a head for learning Talmud.)  When the learning is fun and dovetails with the student’s strengths, then you have found the key to raising a lifelong learner.


In order to pass down love for Jewish life, parents have to model commitment and enthusiasm, even if they don’t feel it.  Our sages guarantee that what starts “lo lishma” (not for the sake of heaven) eventually becomes “lishma” (for the sake of heaven.)  Make sure your kids catch you in the act of doing Jewish stuff.  They see me davening and know that this is not a time to interrupt. I study Torah publically in our well-trafficked kitchen.  I share any exciting tidbits each night at the dinner table or on Shabbas.  Most importantly, I don’t take for granted that they are getting Judaism by osmosis and keep the subject of continuity on the table.  One of my friends, the dynamic Lori Palatnik realized that the key to righting our sinking ship is by inspiring young non-Orthodox mothers to fire up their Jewish connections.  She took it upon herself to figure out a way to get them on spirited and spiritual all-expense-paid (after airfare costs) trips to Israel. This one woman’s effort succeeded in raising the funds to send over 6500 women on this remarkable program.  Yes, you can go too!  I have helped to conduct recharging weekends for the alumni and I marvel at the enthusiasm of this once disenfranchised group and see how it is revolutionizing Jewish life for these lucky families. When kids they see their parents excited about Judaism enough to make it a lifelong priority, then the need for continuity programming becomes irrelevant.


There is one area of Jewish life that does require Helicopter parenting: getting your kids married off.  The same tractate of Talmud that recommends that we teach our kids to swim insists that every parent’s sacred duty is coaxing their kids to the chuppah.  This point seems to be lost on adherents of all denominations except perhaps Charedim who still engage in arranging shiduchim (matchmaking.)  I had very little marital direction from my parents or the Conservative movement.  My dad encouraged me to sow my wild oats and to relish in the pursuit.  He also gave me that old world advice that I find so destructive: to wait until I had a steady income before seriously dating.  I didn’t have the marriage word in my vocabulary until I was nearly thirty!  I’ve seen that those couples in our community that marry young also take the exciting ride of finding careers and settling down during their twenties, but they get to share the adventure with their besheret.


The bottom line is that if Jewish parents could get more comfortable with the role of nudge-in-chief, our highly prone to suggestion offspring would get married.  As it stands now, most kids wallow in a transitory job market for a decade after college and drift in and out of multiple relationships.  Precious time is wasted, hearts are broken and scar tissue develops.  We certainly aren’t motivated to maturity or commitment by secular society.  In fact, Western media intimates that real commitment in a relationship is foolhardy, terrifying or for wimps who don’t have the backbone to go it alone.  The “Princeton Mom” Susan Patton recently made headlines by claiming that women should spend 75% of their time in college looking for a man, the time when they are surrounded by like-minded, unattached peers in their age group.  Yes, it would be highly controversial to launch a Federation campaign to encourage youth to marry before the age of twenty-five, but it might put that “marriage word” in their vocabularies and solve the crisis of our declining birthrate.  Most in vitro clinics would fold for lack of customers.  Young parents would realize that their mentors were right all along; while children require lots of effort and cash, the reward far exceeds the sacrifice.


A final thought: practicing Telescope Parenting better prepares parents for the inevitable empty nest syndrome.  Such parents have created a strategic distance between themselves and their children and have instilled in their kids the confidence to stand on their own.  They don’t define themselves solely as mom or dad since their children’s developing independence is welcome and the parent’s own individuality is nurtured.  Helicopter Parents describe empty nest separation as horrible and feel a sense of abandonment.  Telescope Parents certainly miss their kids but are thrilled that they are functioning on their own and that they will eventually be off the payroll.  Such parents may suggest career options but don’t impose their own bias or try to shoehorn the kids into a mold, they just give them the tools to know themselves and choose wisely.  Ideally, we Jewish parents perceive that our children are gifts from the Creator, on loan, entrusted to our care for only a few short years.  We do our best to endow them with all the wisdom and blessings that we can muster and empower them to formulate and pursue their own unique paths.  Until, of course, they have too much laundry, and then they can come running home.

Keeping Consistency Constant

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

By Sam Glaser

The night before my son Jesse left for summer camp in Wisconsin we were sitting around the dinner table discussing discipline. We turned to our sixteen-year-old counselor-in-training to get his feedback on our parenting style. Jesse commented, “Dad, you have never punished me.” “Really?” I responded. “Yep. Never.” I asked my wife if this is a good thing. She responded, “probably not.” I guess I will be remembered as an “old softy” and clearly Jesse has the healthy quality of omitting certain memories. So how do I enforce discipline? My technique seems to be treating my kids like adults and making consequences real. Indeed, there are ground rules in our mostly peaceful household. If they are broken, our kids immediately sense that the placid order of our micro-universe has been altered. Yes, they can keep pushing or nudging and drive us crazy, but why do that? It doesn’t get them anywhere.

I think there are two key factors that have kept us sane while raising the next generation of LA Jewish kids. One is that we leave most of the heavy lifting to God. What we eat, how we treat others and what we do on Shabbat and holidays isn’t something we have to negotiate. We have a 3500-year-old tradition that offers precise guidelines to keep out of one another’s hair and perceive God’s presence in our everyday lives. The kids see us not only respecting halacha (Jewish law) but also loving it. We appreciate that the genius of Judaism is in the details. We don’t obsess about the supposed limitations but we embrace them. We lead by serving as an example and not by lecturing. And we live in a community where love of Torah and a natural adoption of halacha is the norm.

The other factor is the focus of this essay, consistency. We’re not perfect, but as parents, we are really there for our kids. Going to bat for them at school, helping them grow, not tolerating wasting time or mistreatment of others. When we say we’ll be at the corner to pick them up, we show up on time, give or take five minutes. Dinner is on the table for a family sit-down every night. I think our kids sense that we are all teammates and that we will do whatever we can for them within our means. No really means no. And as hard as it is to have a meeting of the minds, my wife and I do try to dispense justice in tandem and resist our kid’s attempts to play one parent against the other. Our parenting style isn’t “disciplinarian.” Just disciplined.

Consistency is one of the few themes that we areconsistently repeating. All three of our children take lessons on their respective musical instruments and must practice regularly if they want to continue. We encourage them to find friends that are trustworthy and do not run hot or cold based on ever-mutating peer popularity contests. We teach follow-through and expect them to meet the obligations they have taken on. I regularly emphasize the teaching that the holy ark was lined with gold leaf on the outside AND on the inside. Why waste precious gold on the inside? The lesson in a nutshell is that being consistent isn’t just an outward attribute; a true tzadik is holy on the inside and the outside. Learning to be consistent as kids makes them better sons and daughters and I believe will make them better employees, employers and most importantly, spouses.

I regularly reflect on our “chassan and kallah” classes when we were newlyweds. Torah wisdom suggests that the guys make their wives the “queen” of the household, and women must demonstrate sincere respect for their husbands. The marriages that thrive seem to be those where the couple is very consistent in managing these two behaviors. Men, you have to make your wife number one. And remind her daily how she rocks your world. Any less and she feels “hated,” much like Leah felt hated by Yaakov. Women, while it’s true that you may wear the “pants” in the family and may even be the primary breadwinner, you have to keep your husband feeling respected and venerated. And not just on Father’s Day. Anyone can be a tzadik for a minute or two. It’s consistent proactive behavior that keeps marriages strong.

Another piece of advice we got as neophyte grooms is to ensure that we consistently satisfy our wives both in the bedroom and the way we pitch in around the house. The key is to set a standard during the first year of marriage that is reasonable. In other words, not firing on all cylinders at the starting line if that is a pace we can’t maintain. During that first year of marriagewe minimize outside distractions to find a point of deep connection and passion, thereby allowing one’s spouse to feel secure that the pattern of love and duty established is not going to diminish. The true aphrodisiac in a loving relationship is consistency: honesty and reliability that builds real trust and thereby builds intimacy.

Similarly, those growing in Judaism have to set an observance level that they can maintain and not burnout. Yes, we all need to be learning and growing; good enough is the enemy of greatness. But not all at once. Most wise teachers suggest a “baby steps” pace so that the growth remains consistent and practical. It’s hard to take someone seriously that jumps from eating Big Macs into a glatt kosher ascetic the next day. Just like we build marital intimacy with consistency, so to can we bond with the Creator of the Universe. The same dynamic is at play: don’t bite off more that you can chew, take one mitzvah at a time, take on Shabbat one hour at a time, show up for prayer whether you feel like it or not. Every mitzvah has angels doing back flips. Consistency with one’s commitments to God are the engine of the relationship; after all, God created the concept of fidelity and thankfully is infinitely patient.

As many of you know, I am excited about The Possible You, a seminar in powerful Jewish living that I deliver about every other month. One of the key aspects of the work is to distinguish “emes” from “sheker” or truth from falsehood in terms of our relationships with God, one another and ourselves. When we are consistent we are bringing truth into the world. When we break our word we bring falsehood. The goal of this work is in respecting the power of the word, creating reality with our declarations and maintaining that reality by being consistent. This isn’t a recipe for guilt every time you are running late, just something to keep in mind when you have a lapse. One can simply restore emes to the world by apologizing, re-committing to a new goal and moving on. The prophet Shmuel says, “Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker,” usually translated as, “The Jewish People are eternal.” A better translation is “the eternity of Israel is intact because we don’t deceive,” or that our close relationship with God is unbreakable when our word is our bond.

We all have areas where we are inconsistent. Usually it’s those very areas that are crucial for our personal task (tafkid) in life. Thank your Yetzer Harah (evil inclination) for tripping you up in the very place you need consistency. It knows exactly what to do to keep you from reaching your life goals. The $100,000 question is then, how can we create more consistency in our lives? I think the key is threefold: once we identify things that make us procrastinate, give us heart palpitations or get us addicted, set small, manageable goals in

writing and tackle them one by one. Too big a mountain and we’ll never try to climb it. Another method is to bring God into the picture. For example, when I have a creative roadblock I ask God for a new song before I go to sleep. I am rarely let down. Some folks feel funny praying on their own behalf. Establish your small goal and ask for God’s help in achieving it, in the same language you would use asking a friend to do you a favor. Finally, allow yourself a sense of triumph when you accomplish each step and reward yourself for being consistent. For me, chocolate ice cream is a great perk. In fact, I think I’ll use that one right now as a reward for getting this essay written.

There are so lessons we can learn from that simple sentence we utter upon awakening: Modeh Ani. I am grateful to you, living and eternal King, Who consistently returns my soul with abundant compassion. Consistency is God’s gift to us. That we can busy ourselves surfing Facebook while our lungs breathe, blood circulates and food digests is nothing short of a miracle. Every sunrise is a miracle. It just loses its impact by virtue of repetition. “Modeh Ani” asks us to not even leave our beds without acknowledging that our miraculous lives are sustained by God’s quiet consistency. Perhaps the best way to emulate the Creator is with an emphasis on bringing that same consistency to our interactions with our children, spouses and everyone we meet.

Better Run Away

Monday, February 28th, 2011
by Sam Glaser  

max partyMany a morning I bask in the sunlight on our front porch surrounded by fragrant jasmine, birds of paradise and bougainvillea. It’s my power spot for the Shachrit prayers.  I’m bound up in my tefillin, enveloped in my tallit and connected to the Source of all creation. This sunny spot conceals me just enough from the few passersby on our quiet street but some know to look for me and wave as I shuckle back and forth.  Our new neighbors have two adorable kids, the oldest a loquacious, blonde three-year-old with a favorite game. While I daven I can’t help but notice him try, often successfully, to run away from the house and down the street as his nanny panics and bolts after him.  Every time he gets a little farther and she freaks out a bit more.

We did the same thing with our dad.  We’d stand in front of his comfy leather easy chair and he’d trap us between his knees saying, “run away!”   We’d wait for the trap to open and before we could charge out of his grasp he’d grab us with his enormous hands and whisk us right back where we started.  Every third or fourth time we’d actually escape, sometimes with too much velocity and crash to the floor.  We’d pick ourselves up, stop laughing and try it again.

Of course I performed the same shenanigans with my own precious offspring and when they grew bigger, made an art form out of chasing them around the house.  Any Soap Soup fans know well our game of Better Run Away (Before I Grab You) as codified in the song by the same name.  The kids know that when I catch them I freeze and count, “five, four, three, two, RUN,” giving them time to escape.  As they grew older and could outrun me I devised a corollary to the game called Anger Bottle.  I drink most of the water out of a 12 oz. plastic bottle and then huck it at them with all my

sam bday cakemight.  It has to have just enough water to serve as ballast for a good throw but be empty enough that it scares the pants off them when it strikes the wall just behind where their heads were moments before.  I scream insults at them in my best Pirate tongue and we run until we’re too sweaty or until someone gets hurt. Many neighborhood friends come over specifically to have me terrorize them with my handy Arrowhead.

I’m writing this month’s essay about the evolution of this chase because I feel like the rules are shifting once again.  Now my kids are running away from home.  As far from their parents as they can get.  They aren’t quite cutting the cord completely.  But the stage is set for their inevitable escape.  I left home at seventeen.   I was fiercely independent and confident, with a love for the world, people and adventure and blithely left my three brothers and dear parents to deal with the impact of my disappearance from the family dynamic.  I was busy with Berklee College of Music, new friends and summer piano jobs in Montana and Greece.  I never stopped loving and appreciating my family, but I did so with occasional calls and postcards from the road.  My son Max is sixteen. The writing is on the wall.

I remember when it was clear to Shira and me that God did not plan on giving us any more children.  I had to make an appointment with my rabbi to share my distressed feelings of leaving the reproductive years behind.  I never stopped loving babies and still grab them any time there’s a willing parent.   My wife made it clear that the store was closed and I felt like I was just getting started!  I have a hunch that this melancholy will not hold a candle to the advent of empty nest.  I love the metaphor of the archer…as parents we pull the bow back with all our might and aim it to the best of our ability. Then we launch our beloved offspring on a lofty trajectory and PRAY for a good landing.  That sounds nice in theory…but right now I’m desperately holding on to every hike, every trip to the mall, every conversation at Coffee Bean.

My next CD is called Father’s Day.  It’s about being a dad, loving my own dad, the passage of time and the bitter sweetness of our lives.  Yes, I’m trying to get it out on the market before Father’s Day.  I have a line in one of the songs that sums up this new chapter: “I could hold your hand in front of all your friends, then I became an idiot.”  Max is hiding more.  Creating his own sense of self away from the shadow we cast.  Welcoming anywhere from

max mariachi10-25 friends over every Shabbat afternoon and hinting not to subtly that I find my own friends to play with.  He looks so damn handsome and has such a winning smile.  But that smile is more often reserved for his peers and if I want a conversation I have to bribe him with an occasional fancy meal or force him on an outing.  Even then I don’t have his full attention; I’m trying to teach him that it’s not OK to text while in a conversation with a live human.  He tries to comply until an “important” message comes through.

Jesse, my fourteen year old, is affectionate and demonstrative.  He’s as easy going as Max is willful.  He insists that he is going to be a rich doctor and build us a guesthouse for our retirement on his expansive property.   This too will change.  In fact, on our way to a recent family friend’s bar mitzvah, Jesse warned my wife and me that we were not allowed to dance.  Max chimed in, “don’t even talk.”  Thankfully Sarah was willing to party with us while her brothers cowered in shame.

I’m grateful that my kids still beg for bedtime stories.  I make them up every night from scratch; fully realized adventures, mysteries, business sagas and tales of spiritual rendezvous.  They each give me two random nouns that I must somehow incorporate into the story line.  I accept this challenge in order to keep their curiosity piqued throughout the fifteen minutes of drama. I owe them a dollar if I forget their word and I rarely mess up.  This past year Max stopped asking for stories and no longer will volunteer words.  A few nights ago I caught him underneath his covers with his headphones on during an especially intricate tale.  Like I said, the times they are a-changing.

By now you are probably wondering why I am taking you down this lonely road.  Of course, there’s a lesson in this and it’s acutely applicable at this time of the year.  You see, my friends, we are now entering Adar sheni, the final month in the Jewish calendar. This is the season when we heighten our joy and celebrate Jewish Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Purim.   We then launch into the first of the biblically numbered months, Nissan, during which we experience the week of Passover.  The Jewish year begins with the commemoration of the Exodus, reliving the plagues, splitting of the sea and revelation at Sinai.  Pesach is the holiday of homecoming and rebirth and logically occurs in the springtime.  We return to our infancy as a nation when we witnessed nine months of plagues and then were carried like a baby through the dangers of the desert, depending on God’s constant beneficence for our survival.

On the other hand, the megilah or scroll of Esther that we read on Purim is the only book in the canon that does not mention the name of God.  And yet God is surreptitiously operating behind the scenes in the formation and then foiling of Haman’s genocidal plot.  The word Purim refers to the game of chance that the villain in the saga employs to determine the date of our extinction.  This eternal tale leaves the reader with the option of perceiving either chance or the hand of God at each turn of events.  So too can we learn to see God’s presence in our own lives, both at times of turmoil and triumph.  In other words, when we reach spiritual maturity, when seemingly random events occur we might remark, “large world, well managed,” rather than, “it’s a small world.”

The Jewish year begins with revelation and ends with concealment.  Moses is God’s agent in bringing the Shechina down to earth and Esther’s name has the word “to hide” at its root.  Jewish history takes us on a journey from vulnerability in the desert to the formation of a people capable of agriculture, Talmudic discourse, defense and technology.  We spent an extra thirty-nine years in the desert because we didn’t want to leave the womb.  Our lives progress from dependence on our parents (and our Parent in heaven) to independence and as Stephen Covey would insist, ideally to interdependence where we grasp our role in the greater society.

In 1990 my father’s company went bankrupt.  This was a serious rupture in our family’s security and this forty-year enterprise was my dad’s raison d’être.   It’s highly likely that his four boys would have gone into the business. Instead, I became a full time musician and fell in love with my Judaism, eventually marrying the two in this unusual career of mine.  Two of my brothers became popular rabbis and the other brother is now a well-respected lawyer.  We don’t have the silver spoon in our mouths anymore and I think that’s a good thing.  We’ve had to fight for every last nickel and we’ve learned the value of hard work and perseverance.

In the desert we enjoyed manna from heaven and in Israel we had to perform backbreaking labor to cultivate our crops.  Adam was commanded to work and guard the Garden of Eden, not recline in a lounge chair drinking mai-tais.  To have any sense of pride and accomplishment, my children must strike it out on their own and wean themselves from the open tap of our generosity.  I fully understand the importance and inevitability of this process but I don’t have to like it.

The consolation for parents of teens is that yes, they will move out of our homes but not our lives, and that God willing, grandchildren will follow! Now when I look around my Shabbas table I am poignantly aware that in the ensuing years there will be empty places.  This sensation of always being in high demand as they compete for my attention will wane.  OK…I’m getting depressed again! I wish I had a freeze frame or at least a slow motion button on the video of my life.   Life is so good.

I’d like to offer my loyal readers the blessing that “those that

Glasers Hawaii sow in tears will reap with joy.”  Treasure your challenges and strive to see God’s loving hand in every facet of your life.  Take your spouse out on a regular date night so that when the house empties out you remember what one another looks like.  And in the immortal words of the psalmist, James Taylor, “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel, things are going to work out fine if you only will.”