Saturday, May 22, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Secrets of a Jewish Mother - by Jill Zarin, Lisa Wexler and Gloria Kamen

Don’t Take the Credit; Don’t Take the Blame (Chapter 9, Parenting)

(From Secrets of a Jewish Mother by Jill Zarin, Lisa Wexler, and Gloria Kamen. Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) 2010.)

Our society blames parents for their children’s transgressions and praises them for their children’s accomplishments. We’d rather take less blame and less credit. We can all see that there are great parents who have lousy kids and there are horrid parents who end up with wonderful children. For every neglected child who grows up to win a Nobel Prize, there are children from privileged and protected homes whose adulthood is spent in isolation and misery.

Also, two kids who grow up in the same house with the same parents more often than not have completely different perspectives on their childhood. Even as you read this book, you will find Jill saying to Lisa, “Did we grow up in the same house?” Yes. And no.

If you are not yet a parent, you should know that kids are born the way they are born. Relax. You can’t control much of anything, and you probably can’t change that much either, especially when it comes to their temperament. If they are willful and stubborn as toddlers, they will probably stay that way. You can influence the books your kids read and the television shows they watch, and try to set the best example humanly possible, but if they start running with the wrong crowd, you are in trouble. Peers exert a greater influence than you do, and you won’t even know it until your children are all grown up and confide in you all the things you missed along the way. Do not fret about this—you are not supposed to know everything. Your child’s journey into adulthood is meant to contain secrets from you.

You are probably thinking, then why read this chapter at all? If the whole thing is a crapshoot anyway, then why bother following anyone’s advice? Just because you probably can’t change the outcome of a situation, are you then supposed to abandon the struggle? Absolutely not! If there is one thing the Jewish mother believes, it is that despite the outcome, the battle must be fought.

Obviously, some things make a huge difference in a child’s well-being—
showing love, giving plenty of attention and setting a good example. So do your best; don’t shirk your responsibilities. But if you have done your best, don’t flog yourself if the child you raised didn’t grow up to be the adult you envisioned. The universe plays funny tricks on all of us. We are meant to learn lessons from every significant relationship. If your relationship with your child or parent is less than wonderful, examine your behavior. If you can look at yourself and absolve yourself of blame, then absolve yourself of guilt. If not, then fix what is fixable before it’s too late. People don’t live forever.

ask yourself

1. Why did you decide to have kids?
2. So far, is parenting kids what you expected it to be?
3. Who is your best parental role model? Do you seek his or her advice? As often as you should?
4. Who is more responsible for your child’s good grades in school, you or your child? Why?
5. In what ways has your child’s nature been the same since birth?
6. In what ways has your child’s nature changed since birth? Do you think the changes are due to your interventions?
7. Do you blame your parents for your own worst attributes? Is that fair?
8. What behaviors in your child do you think your parenting could affect?

About the Authors:
Jill Zarin is one of The Real Housewives of New York City on television.
Lisa Wexler, her sister, is the award-winning host of the daily radio program The Lisa Wexler Show.
Gloria Kamen, their mother, was the surprise hit of Real Housewives season two. She writes the "Ask Gloria" column on BravoTV.

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