Independence is not all it’s cracked up to be


Yom hatsamut made me think about independence. My independence as a mother: am I really independent when my children depend on me? And my children’s independence: how difficult it is for me to allow them to become independent which eventually will lead them to leave the nest. And how do I teach them that with independence comes responsibility.

I allowed my 10-year-old Netanel to take the younger ones along to the Yom HaAtzmaut party that his friends where throwing this year. Netanel’s been nagging me recently to give him more independence and stop treating him like a baby. “You want independence, buddy,” I thought, “I’ll give it to ya!” This was the first year that Mommy (as in me) would not walk him to and from the BBQ. He would walk there without mom- but with 6-year-ol Yair and 4-year-old Noam. With independence comes responsibility, dude. I had also appointed him to be the official pre-Yom HaAtzmaut makolet-goer in the family. You may be gawking and/or screaming at your screen right now, insisting that I’m robbing Netanel of his childhood. But I firmly believe that when a child is ready and willing to take a few more steps towards independence, a few more responsibilities are needed to balance the equation.

When I got married, I was sure that I was gaining independence. Now I would be far from nagging Ima and ‘adviceful’ Abba. Now I would decide everything for myself and finally be the boss of me and my home. Yeah, right! With my newfound independence came a laundry heap of responsibility (and bills for that matter)! Tons of resentment welled up in my heart (for years!) against my husband for having asked me to marry him. If I would have known the price of my independence, I would have chosen to be an old maid, in my parents’ care, forever! (…or would I?) It’s the responsibility thing again, and the not-taking-responsibility for my decisions…

I heard a lovely radio program just before Yom Hatsmaut where four Israeli women were interviewed and asked, “Yom HaAtzmaut is two days away. What does Atzmaut (independence) mean to you?”

I loved Avivit W.’s response: “We celebrated the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt a mere two weeks ago. G-d essentially picked them up out of a ‘slave mentality’, gave them independence and taught them how to take responsibility for their lives. When I’m feeling like my heart is overloaded with grudges, complaints and long lists of wrongs done to me by my family and friends, I try asking myself: “Do you want to be a slave to negativity? Or do you want to be free? Free to be the master over your own happiness.” I suddenly feel the heavy weight lifted from my heart and a sense of pride washes over my entire being. I am independent enough to take responsibility for my moods.”

What’s your take on kids and independence? Was it fair to ask Netanel to bring along his siblings to the party? How do you teach your children to become independent as well as responsible? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.