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Of Troubles and Treasures
Our Children: Hidden Treasures or (Not-so) Hidden Troubles?

Everyone is in favor of education, especially when someone else is doing the educating. No one will deny that education is a noble goal, but who has time for nobility? Tuition is an expense that must be covered by the parents.  And once we are preoccupied with making a living, there's never enough time for the children. To educate a child properly, is both time and energy consuming. 

We can well imagine a harried father explaining why he can't do homework with his children:

“When I sit in the office and prepare a report, someone pays me for it. But when I help my child with his homework no one's offering me a wage.”

Ambition can be the factor to another stumbling block. Human nature is such that no matter how advanced the career, there's always something more to achieve. While a cow may be perfectly content to chew the same flavor of grass day after day, man by his very nature is constantly searching for new experiences and higher achievements. Cows don't seem to need "new, improved" versions of meadow grass. Without a doubt, mankind does.

Like so many other phenomena in this world, man's continual search for innovation can serve both to his advantage and to his disadvantage. Without it, who knows how man would be living today. Take Oliver and Wilbur Wright, who were not content to produce bicycles. The world has changed drastically in the last one hundred years as a result, and those who followed them, take to the skies.

Man was created with a universal drive to adapt his world to his needs, to build, to fashion, create, to develop the resources he finds ready and waiting for him into new, improved versions of what he inherited from his predecessors. For mankind as a whole, this is an inestimable boon. For the individual, though, there is another side to this trait of man. Today's world brings to bear on the individual a myriad of pressures and stresses unknown to his ancestors. John Doe finishes school with the ambition to become a pilot. By the time he's finished his training, he knows far more about the various types of aviators, and has decided to aim for international flights rather than mere local hops. He works hard to attain his goal, to gain the necessary promotions until he finds himself in the cockpit on his merry way to Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo or Melbourne.

Wonderful! But now that he's achieved his goal, does he sit back and enjoy life? Does he give himself respite from long years of stressful living?

No way. His ambitions have soared together with him and reached new heights. What seemed five years ago to be the height of his ambitions is now firmly in his grasp, but its significance and value have diminished. He has set his eyes on a higher goal, and when he reaches that peak, rather than leaning back and enjoying the view, he will scan the horizons for even higher mountains to scale. Perhaps he will turn to designing aircraft, or open his own airline. Mankind as a whole will benefit, but John Doe himself will never be satisfied with his achievements. He suffers unrest and inner tension, thanks to the inner urge for new conquests which typifies the human race. To his dying day, there will remain unconquered peaks that beckon, if only he had the time and energy to tackle them. Even worse, each goal in turn, loses its attraction and esteem shortly after John actually achieves it, leaving him with the same gnawing dissatisfaction and yearning for accomplishment. If such is man's inborn nature, how is he ever to achieve happiness in this world? The Sages of the Talmud tell us that no man leaves this world with even half his desires quenched.

This ongoing cycle leaves man no time to reflect on the forces which have taken control of his life. Subconsciously, man has handed over the reins to a wild horse which is taking him along an adventurous, demanding highway that will never lead him to happiness.

Most people seek contentment outside the bounds of their own homes. Who thinks of searching for a life-goal to attain within the parameters of his home? Consequently, modern man spends a minimum of his waking hours in his own residence. As a corollary, he spends a minimum of his time in the company of his children.

Offspring are a delight that can easily be set aside or handed over to a babysitter when career demands our full attention. Later, children make greater demands on our resources; at this stage, we no longer regard them as a total asset. Take for instance Diane's friend. She invites her and her husband over for the evening. "I have a problem with the children," Diane explains. "It's the babysitter has trouble handling them."

Don is meeting with one of his salesmen, Hank, and stifles a yawn for the third time in five minutes. The black rings under his eyes are appalling.

"Not feeling up to par?" asks Hank solicitously.

"I'm okay," answers Don. "Just having a hard time with my kid lately. He's really giving us a headache."

What occupies the thoughts of such parents: How to help their child, or how to solve the problem that is keeping them from getting enough sleep or attending social events? Many parents will admit, in a moment of candor, that their children are no small burden to them. Why should this be so? Isn't parenting meant to be a source of deep pleasure and satisfaction? The answer lies in the basic attitude of the father or mother to his or her role as a parent.

The first question we must ask ourselves is what bothers us about the problem we're having with our child. Are we concerned because our child may be suffering or missing out on something he needs? Or are we upset because the child's needs are interfering with social gatherings, or getting enough sleep?

If a parent feels that his children are getting in the way of his progress up the socio-economic ladder, there is no doubt the parent will consciously or subconsciously convey this resentment to his offspring. Children are extremely sensitive to how others feel toward them, even when these feelings and attitudes are not expressed in words. It is patently clear to the child in case that his father would be happier if he were more refined, better-mannered, considerate, creative, talented, and above all, subdued. At times the child also gets the  impression that his parents regret he is not invisible, as well.

A child who experiences rejection, real or imagined, is on the way to becoming even more of a "head-ache" or "problem" and thus increasing the burden he is already imposing on his parents. If the child feels his parents are even angrier with him, the tense situation will be further aggravated.

Obviously, it is the responsibility of the parents, not the child, to break this vicious cycle. The sooner they do so, the easier their task will be. Even if the parent guards her tongue, and refrains from letting the child hear any mention that he is a burden, the child will sense it. Attitude speaks louder than words. So long as the problem exists, the bond between parent and child will be affected, and the child will feel insecure.

The solution is to treat the problem right at its very roots. It is the parent who must make the change, by reviewing his attitude toward his child and child-rearing in general. A broader horizon may help the parent to review his priorities. Let him ask himself what will remain significant in ten years' time. If a healthier, deeper bond with his child results, both parent and child will be far happier. The "problem" will become his pride and joy. There is a happier way to view one's children, a positive approach that has glasses with rosy lenses.

For a start, let's try to imagine ourselves as children. Would we like to be labeled problematic? Not likely. For the next step, let's recall that every child is a locked treasure chest containing uncountable opportunities for success and accomplishment. We are beside it, and hold the key in our hand. We can insert the key into the lock, and we choose which way to rotate it. Will we open the chest, or will we lock it up tight? As long as we regard our child as a burden to be borne, we are turning it in the wrong direction. The mistake is ours, and ours alone.

Another thought which may put everything in its proper perspective is to think of those couples who have not yet been blessed with a children. How many tears are shed for lack of a curly-headed "problem" to nurture and love? How much time, effort, travail, and money are childless couples willing to sacrifice for this. Such thoughts can help us see our situation in a more position light and introduce a more relaxed, positive atmosphere into the home. If we persist, the child will sense the change and start to blossom again.

A treasure-chest is a gift to be protected. To do justice, we need to develop the talents and character of our child along the right channels. It is the responsibility of the parent to see that no harm befall his "treasure." Unlike a chest of gold, our child is a potential treasure, as yet soft and unformed, and therefore particularly vulnerable. If we are truly interested, we will find the way to discover the treasure waiting for us right in our own home, in the children's room. If we put our minds and hearts to the task, we will find the way to polish our treasure until it shines and gladdens our hearts, now and for many years to come.

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