When the economy went into a tailspin back in ’08, theNY Times wrote of the difficulty some parents were faced with at that time. The article outlined the great strain some parents were facing by having to, for the very first time, say NO to their teenage kids. Gasp!
Even though we have since pulled out of those economic doldrums, the lesson remains the same as how not to raise your children and how to improve their chances at finding real happiness. And Sukkot can play a key role in thatmessage.
When Wendy Postle’s two children were younger, saying “yes” gave her great joy. Yes to all those toys. The music lessons. The blowout birthday parties. But as her son and daughter approached adolescence, yes turned into a weary default. “Sometimes it was just easier to say, ‘O.K., whatever,’ than to have the battle of ‘no,’ ” said Mrs. Postle.
Indulged. Entitled … (These children) were raised … by parents who believed that keeping children happy, stimulated and successful, no matter the cost, was an unassailable virtue. A 2007 study by the Harrison Group, a market research firm in Waterbury, Conn., found that nearly 75 percent of parents caved in to their children’s nagging for new video games, half within two weeks. They all felt the pressure and the desire to acquire.
“Parents are going to feel they’re not giving their kids everything,” said Madeline Levine, a California psychologist who writes about adolescents in her book “The Price of Privilege.” “The kids are going to be confused. They’ve never known not having what they want. And the parents are going to have to tolerate their kids’ anger.” Wendy Postle said her teenagers have become angrier and more argumentative about money. “They seem so selfish,” she said. She wondered whether the fault was hers, whether that early lavishness was a parental failing.
I have a confession, I relish saying no to my kids. It is my job as a parent to teach them to be responsible, do chores around the house and to have them realize that happiness is not dependent on having their every whim met. Nay, giving children everything they want at the moment they want it is the sure path to their future frustration and disappointment. There is no greater lesson than delayed gratification. It’s how Karen and I were raised and what we strive to teach our kids as well.
Wendy and her pals need to learn the lesson of Sukkot.
Dwelling in the Sukkah teaches us to get back to the more fundamental things in life. We extricate ourselves from the trappings that society insists we must have in order to achieve happiness. The Sukkah allows us to get back to basics and to refocus on what is truly important in life. All those things that the PR machines of Apple, Adidas, Tory Burch, Hollywood, Lexus, etc. tell us are so crucial to our happiness are exposed to be completely false when we find ourselves in much simpler surroundings.
This is the primary message of Sukkot, the holiday called זמן שמחתנו- the time of our joy. Joy and Happiness are achieved when we get up and leave the creature comforts of our home, if even for a short time. They are found when we are able to break free from all the stuff that we are led to believe to be necessary and crucial to be happy. To just walk away from them at will.
Sukkot is the exact opposite mindset of those parents who “believed that keeping children happy, stimulated and successful, no matter the cost, was an unassailable virtue”. Virtue? Hardly. It is an unassailable vice.
Only when we know that our happiness is not dependent on any thing, then and only then are we able to really enjoy those things. When we come to understand that whatever we have is a gift from God and not an entitlement, and that enjoying our families and living a life of truth and values are the things that really bring happiness – only then can we utilize our possessions to add to our happiness, but in no way to define ourselves by them.
Want your kids to learn to be happy? Drag them from their stuff, sit with them in a simple Sukkah adorned by nature and share stories, wisdom, good food and family time. They will be forever indebted to you for teaching them one of the most valuable lessons in life… the lesson of realizing true happiness.
Autumn hanging down, all the trees are draped like chandeliers
Sukie saw the beauty but she wasn’t wet behind the ears…
She didn’t have money, she didn’t have cash…
She went without
-Belle and Sebastian