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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Follow Your Dreams: The Responses of Parents

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     I recently wrote an article about older adults who are single (either widowed or divorced) and who have grown children with their own young families. What happens when these singles meet, marry and decide to live a life that is independent of their families, and friends? The “older” newlyweds I wrote about were going through problems with their friends and families as they chose to follow their dreams and make aliya (move to Israel). Leaving their families, children and grandchildren behind – to be visited whenever they could, instead of almost daily – brought resentment and distress from everyone they knew and were related to. I opened this discussion to you, our readers, for your input. Below are some of the responses I’ve received that are reflective of the many.


Feeling Strongly


         “You invited your readers’ opinions, re: the adult American children who did not want their remarried parents to move to Israel. Their remarried parents should have no qualms whatsoever in pursuing their dreams and moving to the Holy Land. They have already fulfilled their duties to their children. Their adult children and their families could visit them occasionally in Israel, or vice versa. Their children are being selfish and, in addition, should be reminded that their parents will be fulfilling a mitzvah by residing in Israel.”

G. G.


         “Starting a new life so many miles away may be wonderful, but we older people get sick and need our family. What do they expect? Do they think when they get sick in Israel or, G-d forbid, develop Alzheimer’s disease, their kids (whom they left) can just drop everything and come to their support?”

S. S.





         “I have been thinking about these things for a long time. Your article has brought some of these thoughts out. I think of the short time we have left (60 years if we reach 120), of our failing health and our difficulty walking, eating, driving and even sleeping. I worry that we are not taking the time to figure out what it is we want, as opposed to what all the others around us want; or what we want, as opposed to our need to be with (our children), no matter how pleasant. How often do we ignore our inner voice and silence our unspoken needs, not even taking the time to figure out what those needs might be? I am concerned that if I had to make the decision these people have to make, I don’t really know what I’d want. And sometimes it is hard to know which choice would make me really, really happy.”



         “I call it being ‘on the shelf’ until you’re needed. Sometimes the shelf is a comfortable place to be and sometimes it’s not. But if we have been on the shelf long enough (to be taken down when we are needed by our children), we would sorely miss it if we were no longer there. Or, would we miss the familiarity and solidity of it? On the other hand, if we got off and removed the shelf altogether (pursuing our own dreams)…well, there’s your question.”



Preparing The Children


         “I think there needs to be a delicate balance between pursuing your own dreams and helping anyone with whom you’re in a relationship pursuing their dreams. Any relationship is a give-and-take partnership. In some stages of life, there will be more giving and in some stages there should be more taking. Our expectations of our infant children are different than that of our adult children. And it’s our job to help that child grow from a dependent infant into an independent adult. The more you make them independent, the easier it will be for you to pursue your own dreams later on. I think at this point, the couple should work very hard at making it clear to their children that they love them and will still be there for them, even though they are physically far away. The practicalities of being there will change, but not the emotions.”



         “One of our biggest jobs as parents is to teach our children how to do the mitzvot properly. And one of the biggest mitzvot is kibud av v’em (honor your father and mother). We are taught that how children relate to their parents is a mirror of how they relate to Hashem. It is important for us, as parents, to teach our children that they should not just ‘take’ from us. The mitzvah teaches a child to ‘give’ to his parents whatever they need (food, respect, etc.), just as we have to ‘give’ to Hashem, by davening, reciting brachot and doing mitzvot (which can, at times, be inconvenient). Children also need to give to parents what they ask for, verbally or otherwise. This couple is asking their children to allow them to fulfill their neshama’s desires. The children must – in observing the mitzvah of kibud av v’em – happily send their parents to Israel. They will have to learn how to stay ‘close’ while being far away.”



         The above responses clearly show that the decision for adult parents to make aliya is not an easy one. There is much to decide, and many people’s feelings to be considered – not the least being our own. Is it true that we can prepare our children to be more “giving” as we age? Do most of us really know what we want and what will make us happy as we get older? Or is it just “black and white” and all we need is to do what we want – and go or not go?

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