May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Basketball, Baseball, Soccer or Books?

The flurry of activity each Sunday — driving one child to basketball practice while his older brother has a game in three hours and a younger sister has a tryout for swim team — can totally frazzle the nerves of a family. Who drives where and which game should grandparents be running to?

Discussion over the Shabbos table frequently turns to how the teams are doing in all of the schools and which one will go into the finals. Years ago, we do not remember there being so much emphasis on sports for young children. There was Little League, but not much more than that. We remember how special it was when our daughter Malkie, visiting us in Montreal, received an email from the coach of her son’s Little League team with a drawing of all of the kashrut symbols, ensuring that all snacks that parents brought to the games were available to all children. There was no such thing as a Jewish league, nor did the schools have teams prior to high school. Mordechai remembers his total lack of interest in sports (even the Bruins or the Red Sox) as his father knew nothing about sports. Only his single uncle was a sports fan — and not a the common everyday event. He went to the dog races in Boston. Quite a sport!

We began to ask ourselves what happens to the child in the community who does not have an interest in sports? There have to be many. Do they hide? Are they social outcasts? Do their parents take as much pride in their activities as the mothers and fathers who sit at games screaming, yelling and kvelling from the pitch, the hit, the stolen base or the walk that their children have accomplished? The grimaces on their faces are painful as they watch their children dropping the ball and missing a catch.

This factor also carries over to what type of a camp one chooses for one’s child. Although everyone wants a camp that inculcates proper values to our children with regard to love of learning and Yiddishkeit, in many cases sports activities are an important consideration in deciding where to send one’s child. Again, what about the child who is just not interested?

We hope that parents are wise enough to realize that not every child is inclined to be the sporting type. We as a community are fortunate enough to have groups such as the Boy Scouts, which inculcate other activities to young boys that can encourage them to be involved.

Somehow crafts are considered to be more girly, as are acting and other such activities. We remember well the movie Billy Elliot, the story of a coal miner’s son from North Eastern England. It took place during the coal miner’s strike. Billy was only 11 when the saga began as he happened to watch a class of girls having ballet lessons. His passion for dance, to say the least, caused havoc in his family, particularly with his father and brother. This was not an activity for a coal miner’s son.

What would the reaction be in our community if a young boy voiced an interest in dancing? How would his parents react? Would they be as proud of him as if he were excelling on his school’s basketball team? How would they cope with it and what would they tell their friends?

Girls at a certain point in child raising might decide that they prefer trucks, cars and footballs. Parents are anticipating girly activities. The child vehemently opposes playing with dolls and having manicures with her mom. She in fact as she grows older wants to write. It is discovered that she has a creative mind and often can be seen jotting down notes on a pad. Her preference would be to do “her own thing” rather than being coerced into going out with her friends.

We as parents have the responsibility to encourage our children and not discourage them from their choices because of what we think is better for ourselves. The role of parenting, we think, is challenging from the day a newborn is taken home from the hospital. As we all have learned, the task is more and more daunting each day and grows in every stage of life. Most of us survive our roles and look back on the challenges with a smile. Most importantly is to allow the children to be who they want to be and not who we think that they should be.

By Rabbi Mordecai and Nina Glick

 

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