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Lessons in Parenting: My Kids Don't Believe in God or Love

Lessons in Parenting: My Kids Don't Believe in God or Love

One of the most surprising things for me as a parent has been how different my kids are from me. I guess it was naïve, but I thought it would be natural for kids to be like their parents (though one could point out that I have turned out very differently than my own parents).

I’m a rabbi. One of my kids says he doesn’t believe in God. He would like to, but just doesn’t.

How is that possible?

His whole life he’s heard his father talk about the importance of having a personal relationship with God. We’ve done endless activities to foster a spiritual life: hikes in nature, camping out, planting a vegetable garden, learning, praying.

But he says, “I’m just not there.”

One of my kids says she doesn’t believe in love. She says, “Love is an intellectual concept that we talk ourselves into.”

How is that possible?

Her whole life, she has seen her parents still in the spring of their love. Our home is filled with lots of hugs, expressing emotions, and celebrating each other.

But she says, “I’m just not there.”

How should I look at this? Should it break my heart that two of the most important life lessons that I wanted to give to my kids simply didn’t get across to them?

One of the first comments people make when a child is born is how much the baby looks like his or her mother or father. We assume an external physical resemblance, so subconsciously, we may assume there to be an internal spiritual resemblance, as well. But one of my favorite poets says that life begins at the juncture where the path we expect to take and the path God wants us to take collide.

There is a mystery in parenting – so much that we are not in control of, so much that we do not see. We’re not clairvoyant. We don’t know how things are going to play out; we don’t know what the bigger picture is. For me, parenting is a lesson in humility, faith and trust. Humility because I’m just one piece of this much bigger process. Faith and trust because the Talmud says there are three partners in the creation of a child: the father, the mother, and God. I have faith and trust in the third partner.

More than believing in God or in love, the educational message I wanted to convey to my kids has always been, “Live your authentic life. Don’t live the life that Abba [dad] or Ima [mom] and mom) want you to live. Listen to your soul and have the courage to be honest, vulnerable, and authentic.”

Often I tell the kids, “I’m going to give you all of my wisdom in one sentence: The only thing you are in control of in life is your attitude.”

I guess I have to start listening to my own advice – to take another look at my attitude – and celebrate that my kids are living their own path. Amen. 

Rabbi Aryeh Ben David founded Ayeka: Soulful Jewish Education in 2008. Through its online program, Ayeka educates rabbis, teachers, and professionals in bringing Jewish wisdom from our minds to our hearts to our souls and to our lives. He lives in Efrat, Israel, with his wife Sandra and their six children.

Rabbi Aryeh Ben David
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