During one of the days of chol hamoed Succos a number of years ago, the weather outside was less than favorable so we took our children ice skating. Being the good sport that he is, our children’s father got on the ice as well. I must say that having not skated much since I took lessons when I was around ten years old, I wasn’t all that bad on the ice. But I certainly was no match for my children. Every few minutes they would wave and giggle as they passed me.
As they kept passing me it struck me that this was somewhat of a symbolism of what every parent wants and hopes for their children in life. We want to give our children the tools and resources to be able to accomplish more than we have in our own lives. We hope and pray that our children will be able to access and develop all of their latent talents and utilize them to their fullest capacity.
Of course, it’s not enough to give our children training and resources, we also have to give them the space to fall. We have to imbue them with the confidence that they can grow from their mistakes and fallings. We want them to understand that those mistakes can help them grow if they learn from them.
Rabbi Leibel Chaitovsky, the eighth grade rebbe in Ashar, and one of the greatest educators I know, invests greatly in creating positive relationships with his students. A few years ago, towards the beginning of the school year, I noticed that, for a few days in a row, he was playing chess with one of his students. This particular student was academically weak and I was impressed with Rabbi Chaitovsky’s novel approach to developing a connection with him.
After one such game I saw that student standing next to Rabbi Chaitovsky, and I asked the student who had won the game. The student proudly and emphatically announced “me!” As soon as he walked away Rabbi Chaitovsky leaned over, smiled, and whispered in my ear, “It wasn’t easy!”
Besides giving our children proverbial sharpened skates, teaching them how to use them, encouraging them, and helping them achieve a sense of mastery, there is an even more important component of their success: we have to sincerely give them time and attention so that they can recognize their abilities and worth.
Between you and me, I was really allowing them to go ahead just to help them feel good. You have to understand that I didn’t want to show off too much on the ice. But let’s just keep that between us.