My mom (pictured here with me) used to say she just wants all of her children to be healthy and happy. I know that is still her wish today. That’s what I want for my children. But I want them to be good too.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~ Desmond Tutu
Preparing for a trip to Jerusalem this past summer, I asked my son and his pregnant wife if they had a special prayer they wanted me to bring to the Western Wall. “Yes,” they said and without a thought my son replied, “I want the baby to be good.”
There were giggles from his siblings and an “Oh Jordan!” from another. But in that moment so many thoughts and prayers rushed back to me. I too wanted good children.
In that moment my son’s hopes for his baby could have been superficial – I hope the baby is adorable and sleeps through the night – but to me being good has a deeper meaning.
I guess it would be easier to say Be Kind. Be Gentle. Be Fair. Be Loving. But Be Good says so much more. Goodness is not an action. It is a trait within you and it is a quality to constantly strive for. The closest I can come to defining Be Good is to be a human being. A Mensch.
Wanting Good Children
A Rabbi’s wife, upon making a referral of a couple who wanted to desperately be parents, and adopt through the adoption agency I founded, said to me: “Get them a good baby.” At first I was surprised. What did she mean? Why would the Rabbi’s wife put so much pressure on me? It took me a long time to realize that it simply was her prayer that they would be blessed with a child that had goodness within them.
Of course you may want a baby who is not colicky or who doesn’t have allergies or who is born without a disability. I know, I know. We dream about the traits we hope our children inherit from us and those we hope will disappear with the next generation. As parents we can’t help ourselves, and often find ourselves with expectations regarding parenthood and our children. But if we really think about it, we are hoping for a special kind of kid, right? Don’t you want a child that when people meet them they say, “Wow, that kid is awesome”? You know, the kind of child that stands out not because they are an athlete or an academic, though they can be, but really because they radiate goodness.
“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” ~ Dalai Lama
How Do We Raise Good Children?
Children are awesome. Coursing through their veins there is this goodness – each one unique and on their own journey. I believe that every child is born a good baby. It is however the unknowns in life as to whether or not the child ends up traveling a path that has them sharing their inner goodness. For some of us it is not that easy to be good and for others it appears innate.
Children have a desire to make the world a better place, they provide unconditional love that bonds family, and they exhibit joy that is contagious. I have seen children with outstretched arms welcoming others; children with empathy that turns into action; and those with the skills that embody leadership. I’ve witnessed the bravery that allows children to keep going when adults would have given up, and I am envious of the easy humor that attracts friendships. I’ve also listened to many of their hopes and dreams for others to find the goodness in them and in those around them.
It is our job to take these amazing childhood qualities and work to keep them bright as our children grow. We can do this by recognizing these traits early and praising them and fostering them so that they can be nurtured well into older childhood and young adulthood.
Most importantly, as responsible parents we must model goodness for our children. We must be good human beings and provide them opportunities to experience life outside the family bubble. By providing our children with the tools and resources to help neighbors and the greater community they will develop a greater understanding and commitment to Tikkun Olam (acts of kindness to repair the world.)
What More Can I Want?
It surprises others that I really don’t worry much about my children’s grades, their daily achievements, or how many times they have fallen and how many times they have gotten up. I care more about who they are and who they want to be. I care about how they view themselves and the world around them. I care about their hopes and dreams and their acts of kindness.
All I can ever want for my children is bundled up in my daily prayer: Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Good.
“Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained.” ~ Lao Tzu
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