Sunday, September 20, 2015

growth and teshuva (repentance)

It is a good thing that my husband is my memory keeper. I was exasperated, complaining how 9 yo will never get fluency in reading Hebrew, and he reminded me how I worried and complained about him not knowing any English letters back when he was 5. "He will never read," I said. Then one day it clicked, and now he's a proficient reader.

That got me thinking. We know that he has anxiety. There might be a writing disorder. There might be dyslexia, or some sort of other learning difficulty. There are quantifiable and visible issues. The medication, both traditional and alternative, has cropped up. We have tried therapy, and we have talked about looking into more therapy. When you are a desperate parent, it is so easy to start grasping at any story of a child with a similar difficulty following XYZ plan and getting results. We want results now. We want change now. Moreover, we want a very certain prescription for change, something that we can follow and elicit change.

But that is not how things work.

9 yo still has hard time writing, but he is capable of doing it. 9 yo still has hard time reading Hebrew, but he has slowly built up stamina to try and read accurately. He can read many פסוקים in a sitting now, and he can translate and pick out שרשים. Also, he is at the point where he has interest in board games, competitive games. The same child who would not even try a game before for the fear of losing is now happily engrossed in Sorry, Monopoly and Parcheesi, all well-known for the competitive edge. He loses graciously, even despite his older brother egging him on.

His tantrums, while still occurring over seemingly trivial things, are much smaller. In fact, he came to the realization that he should work on not throwing fits. One of his self-discovered cures is playing the violin. Violin is not easy to play, and he is a beginner, which means, putting it mildly, he is not very good at it yet. Playing the violin and not getting the right sounds is very frustrating to him. I was anticipating this frustration, and got the rental insured, just in case here will be some throwing. Yet, 9 yo discovered that it is a calming activity.

I wish that I could point to a magic pill, and tell everyone else what the secret to these changes is, but, I'm afraid, it is just giving it time. With this extra time comes extra maturity and introspection. All of this makes me wonder whether in our desire to change our difficult children we jump the gun, counsel, treat and medicate instead of just waiting things out. Maybe what ends up working in the end is not the latest cure, but the simple gift of time.

The time between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is known as עשרת ימי תשובה, ten days of repentance. Reading over Rambam's description of תשובה גמורה (complete repentance), one is struck with the complete transformation of a person, up to the point that one is called by a different name, because it is not the same person who did those sins. Yet, any aspect of תשובה that I have worked on was incremental. Change is slow, change takes time, change takes slip-ups and sliding back. Change appears instantaneous to the outside observer, yet, in the thick of it, change is often barely perceptible. Change is often a different thought pattern, Change is biting your tongue instead of saying something. Change is measured in these small steps, and often, one is not certain whether these steps are in the right direction.

Part of my תשובה is to be more patient with my kids, to give them the gift of time, and to allow them to change, mature and learn slowly.

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