Trending Now: Bad Parent Sightings

Posted by mwallach on June 28, 2011 in New To You, Tribe Members |

Dear That’s Life,

Trust me when I tell you I have never said anything that remotely important which resulted in numerous rocket-fire comments as did a comment I posted on Facebook. It is not that I wrote something so off-color, inappropriate or outrageous which would warrant a public flogging. In fact, and thank G-d, the flogging was not directed at me. Rather, numerous FB friends rallied against what I would call ‘Bad Daddy’.

Sitting briefly on a bench in Cedarhurst Park yesterday, I heard a conversation between a father and son that was worth posting on my FB wall. The dad, apparently frustrated with his son who could not have been more than 5 years old, was rebuking the child for not listening. We have all been there and never have I heard of a family in which children listen all of the time. Nevertheless, a punishment must fit the crime and a correlation between the action and its consequence must be made. Otherwise, the child learns nothing, rendering the experience pointless and frustrating.  Clearly, ‘Dad in the Park’ did not get that memo. 

Responding to his name and to his father’s calls to leave, the boy returned to where his dad was sitting. “You don’t listen when I talk to you,” yelled the dad, as he proceeded to remind him of all the recent times he had not listened. The child, still being a child, whined and wriggled as Dad helped him with his sneakers. One of the local ice cream trucks, a staple of summer days and local parks, usually parks near the main entrance. “I want Sponge Bob ice cream,” said the boy, to which Dad responded that the truck was not even in its normal spot. “Besides,” added Dad, “you are not getting Sponge Bob ice cream because you did not sing zemiros Friday night!” This, it seems was another example of the boy’s inability to listen to his father.

I was stunned. Was I missing something here? Hoping this scene made sense to someone else and that this episode was actually okay and not insane, I posted the conversation on Facebook. Praying for guidance, I awaited a response.

Instead of one or two, I received 26 comments, most of which were stories of witnessed bad parenting anecdotes. Unfortunately and completely coincidentally, every story involved a father doing something wrong, with the exception of one about a mom.  While they were awful stories of varying degrees, one stood out from the others specifically because it was reminiscent of ‘Dad in the Park’. Each involved episodes of bad parenting, but these two were about parents who were invariably breaking their child’s connections to Judaism. Punishing a child because he did not sing zemrios will not inspire the child to participate next week and it certainly won’t encourage the boy when he grows up to sing them in his home, should he even keep Shabbos as an adult.

The other story to which I am referring was posted by Amy Stein who had witnessed another episode in a barbershop. A young boy cried hysterically in the barber’s chair as his father yelled, “Say ‘L’chavod Shabbos’ – say it!” over and over again, not allowing the haircut to begin until the crying child complied with his father’s orders. “The poor kid!” wrote Amy at the end of her comment. Poor boy, indeed. No love of Shabbos is going to be instilled from moments such as these.   In fact, any rational person will conclude that only resentment of both Shabbos and the parents can evolve from this situation.

If these two boys reject Judaism as teens or adults, what will their parents blame? The internet? Their neighborhood? They certainly will not blame themselves. It will never occur to them that they were at all complicit. Unfortunately, I am certain they think they are doing the right thing.

That is not to say I consider myself the perfect parent. One Shabbos morning, almost a year ago, I opened the door to my daughter’s closet only to find my youngest son playing on his sister’s Nintendo DSi.  Caught red handed and even before I could say anything, he held up the game, looked at me and said, “Sorry.” Horrified and anything but calm, I asked him what he was doing. “You’re playing DSi, on Shabbos?!” I yelled. “What are you doing???” He immediately began to cry, but not for the reason one may expect.

“You made me cry on Shabbos!” he screamed. Unable to believe I was about to lose this fight and quickly turn out to be the bad guy, a very loud, “WHAT?!” exploded from my lips. Incapable of backing down, amidst his tears, he yelled, “You hurt my feelings on Shabbos!” Again, I exclaimed, “WHAT?!” as I could not believe my own ears. “I would not have made you cry on Shabbos if you had not been playing Nintendo!” I told him. He continued to wail and I continued to wonder how I had screwed this up.

The difference between me and these two dads is that I know I screwed up. Unfortunately for them, they have no clue.


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