The question continues to come up when I am being interviewed and speaking to groups about the 1,000 Mitzvah Project about how my children feel and have they been changed in any way while we worked on the project. Of course, the answer is yes, they have been changed. However, I always add that they have also kept me humble and periodically make me question if they have actually learned anything.
I figured out sometime ago that when it comes to my children I can speak about situations and I can model behavior but ultimately I can’t force them to be givers or charitable-minded. They will have to come to that themselves. It has been something that I have wrestled with and felt upset about as well at times until I finally realized they are not me. Ultimately they will have to make their own decisions about their behavior. I am their mother and teaching them through example but they may or may not chose to follow in my footsteps and while I don’t like it, I have to accept that fact.
Point in case, last week an email came to us from our local Jewish Child and Family Service agency. They had 50 families for “adopting” and were hoping other local families and individuals could get basic and special items for these families this holiday season. There was information about each family and I invited my daughter to look through the list and help choose one family that we could “adopt”. After a few comments, she chose a family because they sounded “normal”. I really think in my daughter’s head it was hard to imagine what a family with a dad out of work or family medical issues would be like. Perhaps that is a blessing, perhaps it is not. She wasn’t able to empathize with a family in need like I had hoped. She accompanied me to the store and helped me choose some of the items on the families wish list and was also with me when we delivered the items to the agency. But I honestly have no idea what her memory will be of this experience if any. Again, I can only model the behavior and hope that she does get it. I know I am not alone in this because it seems to come up so much as a question and in conversations with other parents.
Instead of agonizing and worrying about this, I have decided to continue to discuss and show my children what I hope they will do as they grow up and make these choices for themselves. As a parent, I think that is the best I can do.