Leap of Faith: Adam’s greatest parental warning  

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Leap of Faith: Adam’s greatest parental warning  

Little boy tying shoe laces on stairs outdoors, closeup
Little boy tying shoe laces on stairs outdoors, closeup

In a sense, I started ‘hot housing’ my kid aged four and a half. He was about to start primary school in the September and they sent us a little booklet to complete before term started, in preparation. They wanted to know about the “important adults in his life”, his interests, and (the page I panicked about) what he could do for himself.

As an only child, there was no “Mummy is busy with the baby, put your own shoes on” and I suffer from terrible working mum guilt, so anything I can do when I’m there surely compensates for all the times I’m not? If that meant helping a tired little boy into his pyjamas, wasn’t that my job? Why the hot housing? I just wasn’t prepared to tell his reception class teacher that he couldn’t dress himself, put his shoes on, use a knife – shouldn’t a mum cut up her little prince’s schnitzel?  I refused to admit what I thought were failings as a mum by telling his teacher that he couldn’t do those tasks independently, so you can be sure by the time he started school he could do them all.

When a partner is created for Adam in the story of the Garden of Eden it is explained that “a person leaves their parents and clings to their partner.” (Genesis 2:24). I think it’s the greatest parental warning ever – we all know about the apple-eating. The naive and irresponsible behaviour of Adam in Eden has had repercussions for all who followed and forevermore. It’s the hard toil for our food and labour pain for our children, which Torah tells us are our punishments.

Nobody wants to raise a child that goes from clinging to their parents to cleaving to a spouse and making unworldly decisions about their life.

From the moment our children are born we have a single responsibility and a single aim, to teach them to be independent, to be responsible and altogether useful members of society.

When our children go off to university and/or leave home we won’t get a booklet to fill in about how independent they are. Yet I wonder what the markers of independence are by that point. Can they cook for themselves, will they put on clean clothes, and will they make responsible choices about how much they drink, who they hang out with, and the work/socialising balance?

A parent’s number one aim for their children surely must be independence (with an understanding that some children will never be fully independent but everyone is on a journey towards their own goal). If they can venture out into the world knowing they are loved and have a secure and solid base to return to whenever they need, then that’s the jackpot.

This autumn, whether your children are tying shoelaces, navigating a shared kitchen at university, or starting a new job, my hope is that they do so knowing that you are there for them without needing to do it for them. It’s a fine line but for which we should aim confidently.

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