Q: Though some people complain about the stress before Pesach, I am more concerned about what awaits me after Yom Tov. All the issues that I have managed to close my eyes to while preparing for Pesach and during the chag start to stare me back in the face!
Waiting lists for sleep-a-way camps and the possibility of changing schools for some of my children are among the many that issues that I need to deal with. Making sure that our children behave well enough, that they achieve academically, and that their teachers and principals follow through with positive recommendations when the need arises (and hoping that they indeed do that!) are just some of the things that we need to keep on top of.
We also need to weigh the various alternatives should our children not get into the camps or schools of their choice. There are really only a few short weeks before the summer begins, and there is so much to take care of!
It may seem that I don’t appreciate having a family, healthy children who can attend school, etc., but I do appreciate our brachos — I just feel that I have somehow missed the boat. Schools and camps have limited space, and we lack the connections and stature that would help get them in.
I feel that whatever we do, we’re just not good enough. Other people don’t seem to be plagued with these issues. The year has basically gone by and I feel like it’s just been mediocre. With all my efforts, it seems to go nowhere. Any thoughts?
A: As always, a fulfilling life is comprised of a positive focus and the ability to be flexible under stressful circumstances. In reality, the year is not over — it is six months since Sukkos, and Rosh Hashanah is five and a half months away. Since our society works ahead, a few weeks after Sukkos is Chanukah, and after Chanukah start applications to seminaries and some sleep-away camps — so we jump to the future too quickly.
To live b’simchah, one needs to re-define what “good enough” means. Since no one leaves this world with half their desires fulfilled, one needs to revamp what can truly bring satisfaction. Improvement in interpersonal relationships with relatives and friends, improvement in our relationship with Hashem, and improvement in time-management skills are examples of areas that have lasting value and add quality to our lives. Though it is very difficult to live in the present — and simultaneously be cognizant of the past and hopeful of the future — those who strive toward this have less regrets.
On a practical level, as parents we need to have emunah that Hashem is watching over our journeys no matter how entangled they may seem. We don’t know what, in the long run, is the best school or camp for our child; we just make calculated hishtadlus based on the limited information that is put in front of us. We don’t know which classmates will be in school in September, or if a principal will change the composition of the actual class, etc. We so often carry preconceived notions that are inaccurate.
One excellent example of this idea is a story involving Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l. He was initially refused a job as a Rav in Europe, forcing him to move to the United States in order to support his family. Initially this move must have been very difficult and hard to comprehend, but in the end, it saved his and his family’s lives. We can often look back and see that many of life’s disappointments were, in fact, hidden brachos.
Regarding others not experiencing the same challenges that you have: It is almost impossible to imagine the nisyonos that friends and family face. But be assured that every human being is tested in the particular areas that the Ribbono shel Olam desires.
If you are experiencing worry, your child will absorb these feelings, which is unhelpful to both of you. If you are concerned that you may not be doing enough or taking the correct initiatives to help your child, you should consult with daas Torah. Such a person will have the shoulders to share the situation with you — and you can benefit from their practical advice and from their many years of experience. Hatzlachah!