Neil asks: What character or personality traits do you see in your kids that you feel are worth developing and makes them unique?
A Simple Jew answers:
Thank you for asking me and giving me the chance to attempt to put my answer down on paper since every day I daven, “Ribbono shel Olam, may we be matzliach to raise our children with middos tovos and yiras Shamayim.”
Back in June 2005, I wrote, “While some people may put their primary efforts into ensuring that their children excel academically, I am more concerned about raising my children to have middos tovos.”
As for the unique personality traits in each of my children, this is how I believe they are unique and how I seek to develop their unique characters:
Oldest Daughter (four and a half years-old):
Out of all my children, my oldest daughter is unlike my wife and I in her temperament. We have decided that she most closely resembles my father who is extremely strong-willed and amazingly energetic. These traits are not necessarily negative, despite the opinions of those who might read “extremely strong-willed” to mean “stubborn”, and “amazingly energetic” to mean “hyper-active”.
I view these traits almost as being primordial energy that is waiting to be directed. “Extremely strong-willed” if properly directed can become what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov referred to in
Likutey Moharan #22 as “azus d’kedusha” – a holy brazenness to overcome the arguments of the yetzer hara. “Amazing energetic” if properly directed can become what the sefer Mesillas Yesharim refers to as “zerizus” – alacrity to do mitzvos. Both of these traits are extremely important in a person’s avodas Hashem. Directed properly and coupled with my daughter’s keen intelligence and caring nature, these traits may just prove to be an amazing combination; a combination that I daven to see one day.
Son (almost three years-old):
Unlike his older sister, my son is extremely laid back. When confronted with a sister who wants to fight, he often backs down rather than to pummel her back. An excellent example of his nature can be seen in this story:
One day his older sister was in an angry and agitated mood and started hitting him unprovoked. She then tackled him and started dragging him across the floor like she was a bouncer removing n disorderly drunk from a bar. My son was screaming during this whole episode and my wife ran down the steps to see what had happened. Once it became apparent what was going on, she instructed my daughter to stop, apologize, and go over and give him a hug. My daughter was unrepentant and adamantly refused. Hearing the word “hug”, my son immediately went over and gave his sister a hug despite her aggression just moments before.
This story, along with the story at the deli when he was 15 months-old, captures my son’s innate compassionate nature that I daven continues throughout his life. Compassion, however, is not an entirely good trait. Without direction Koheles Rabbah 7:17 teaches us, “Whoever shows compassion when cruelty is warranted will ultimately become cruel when compassion is warranted.” For this reason, I also seek to instill in him a firmness or toughness that I never had and have always regretted.
Youngest daughter (almost 10 months-old):
If I had only one word to describe my youngest daughter, that word would be “happiness”. My youngest daughter has the brightest smile. Coupled with her twinkling eyes, her smile can instantly shake anyone who sees her out of a sad or angry mood. While others may have to struggle for a lifetime to attain the Chassidic ideal of being b’simcha, this is something that comes entirely natural and easily for my daughter. She is rarely in a bad mood and often wakes up from her nap with a smile on her face. I used to think my son was generally a happy kid until she was born.
What do I want her to develop? I want her to further develop this happiness into what Pirkei Avos terms “sameach b’chelko” – happiness with one’s lot in life. I want her Yiddishkeit to be encompassed with this happiness, and perhaps even using her infectious smile as tool to uplift those who are depressed or in troubled situations.
Ribbono shel Olam, may I live to see my children grow into such people, and may they be able to raise their children to follow in these footsteps!