From the Hearts of (Grand) Mothers…
You recently printed a letter from a mother whose 10-year old daughter experienced difficulty falling asleep (Chronicles 5-4). In your reply you suggested some likely causes for the young girl’s insomnia, among them the pressure of keeping her school grades up.
Within a mere couple of days of reading that column, I got a call from my 15-year old granddaughter who sounded like she was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. When I asked her why she was so down in the dumps, she replied, “I’m studying for a biology test and it’s so hard, and I need to go study Navi now because we’re having a Navi test as well… and we have 12 exams coming up and so much studying to do…”
Rachel, she sounded so sad and so tired at the same time, like she hardly had the strength to speak. This is a girl who is usually lighthearted and happy, and I felt terrible for her. By the time we concluded our chat, it was close to 11 pm. Her parents and siblings were already asleep, yet she was planning on studying until the wee hours of the morning. She conceded that she was woefully short on sleep but had no choice.
So yes, I can see where the burdens placed on our young children can create sleeplessness — not only on account of time allotted for studying and cramming for exams, but also in worrying about making the grade. Might our schools be overdoing it a bit? Seems a bit unfair, if you ask me. There was no biology class offered back in my high school days, and frankly I don’t see that I’ve been deprived an iota.
A Sympathetic Bubby
The reality is that our children have quite a load on their minds, what with a demanding curriculum that incorporates both English and Limudei Kodesh studies.
Now, wouldn’t it be nice if schools could adapt a system whereby students could leave all of their school work behind when they come home, instead of being burdened by it for practically the better part of their waking hours? Wishful thinking, I know. There aren’t enough hours in the day as is. As our Sages say, hayom katzar ve’hamelacha merubah – the day is short and the task is great.
In case you missed them, several columns in the past half a year or so were devoted to the positive and negative effects and fallout of a girl’s Bais Yaakov high school education. (See Chronicles of 12-23-11, 1-13-12, 2-17-12, and 3-2-12 for readers’ various takes.)
In the meantime, Bubby, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over your granddaughter’s moody blues; she will overcome, as we all do, and will in all likelihood benefit in the long run. Moreover, if I were in your shoes I’d go to sleep with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart knowing that my granddaughter thought to turn to me for some respite.
Confidential to Crying for my little one:
Your heart-rending letter took me back some years to a more innocent time (or so it seems), to when my gentle-natured firstborn learned, firsthand, of the existence of cruelty in our world. Mind you, he was not yet three years old. It was on a sweltering summer day when a neighbor and I decided to pack lunch and head with our toddlers to Coney Island by train, to enjoy some sun and sand in the ocean breeze.
Her little girl was about four then, and, as I’d soon discover, not as mild-mannered as her younger playmate. After some playtime, she decided for some reason to toss a handful of sand in my little boy’s face. I was almost as shocked as he was, and my heart ached for him — not only for the physical irritation he suffered from the gritty grains of sand trapped in his eyes, but for having his cocoon of innocence so callously peeled away.
As it turned out, her mother’s insipid “we don’t do such things” was wasted on the bully who wasn’t at all apprehensive about a repeat performance the second she thought she could get away with it. And she had that right: this time around her mom didn’t even bother with voicing her disapproval.
Needless to say, in the interest of shielding my baby from further aggression at the hands of a little girl with obvious issues, there were no further beach excursions with this neighbor, whom I distanced myself from.
Your story is of course much more horrifying, and I only draw the comparison as a means of highlighting that desire so deep-rooted in a mother’s heart — to shield her innocents from the cruelty out there, sometimes where we least expect to confront it.
Our duty as parents is a constant: to be our children’s role models. The home environment we raise our children in is going to be their strongest influence in life. If we teach them right from wrong while showering them with our love and attention, we will help them foster a sense of self-worth that will buttress the hard lessons life will inevitably expose them to.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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