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Time, Not Money -- Kodak Moments with Your Kids . . . Priceless
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
This article orignally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine

  Rated by 19 users   |   Viewed 22068 times since 8/17/09   |   14 Comments
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8/17/09

Several weeks ago, my wife and I were hiking in a State park near our home when we heard the music of children’s laughter off in the distance. We veered off the path to follow the source of the sounds, and found a thirty-something chareidi man wading waist-deep in the stream along with his three preteen children — all of them fully clothed. Not wanting to intrude on their privacy, my wife and I watched them splashing, cavorting, and giggling, from a distance, before moving on.

It was simply the most beautiful “Kodak Moment” one could imagine. (For those who were raised with digital cameras; Kodak is a company that makes film, and they ran ads for many years where treasured times in one’s life that were photographed were referred to as “Kodak Moments.” Film is what old people used to put in their cameras once upon a time before taking pictures of their horses and buggies.) Later, I told my wife that the nachas of watching the father and his children interact and enjoy each other’s company washed away the pain of at least several weeks’ worth of calls I get each night from parents who are having difficulty with their children.

My dear readers, if you are raising children — especially young ones — I very strongly urge you to do everything in your power to spend quality time with them and help each of them create their own album of “Kodak Moments” with you. Parents often make the mistake of thinking that they need to take their children on exotic vacations or to an expensive amusement park for them to enjoy themselves. That is just not so. They don’t need your money; they need you. That fellow I saw in the park didn’t spend a dime on the outing with his kids, but the memories they will carry of their impulsive plunge into the stream together with their father will undoubtedly remain etched in their minds’ eyes for life.

One of the great ironies of life is that when our children grow through their teenage years and beyond, it is so challenging to get them to spend time with us. However, when they are younger and craving for our attention, we often are too busy, too preoccupied, too distracted, and too unaware of how important to their emotional health our time with them is.

Time with you is the greatest self-esteem builder for your children, for it sends a message that your connection with them is so meaningful to you. It allows you to get to know your children — really know them — and helps build the trust, affection, and deep personal relationship that are all prerequisites to having them confide in you and seek your guidance when they need it later in life.

In the hectic lives we lead nowadays, you will need to have the steely determination to spend time with your children in order to accomplish that goal. You will also be well served to spend creative energy thinking of what you can do to find opportunities and venues to carve out such time with them. When our oldest was eight years old, I taught myself and later each of our children to ski and golf because I felt that those two activities would allow me to spend huge blocks of time with them in their adolescent years. (Where else other than a chairlift can you get your teenager to spend ten minutes with you, twenty times in one day?) And when the realization hit me fifteen years ago that between learning with our sons and taking them to shul, I was spending far more time with them than I was with our daughters, I decided to create a yearly N.B.A. (No Boys Allowed) vacation with our two eldest daughters where I would spend two-three days with them alone — without my wife or sons. They are both married, with the chesed of Hashem, but to this day, they regularly mention our N.B.A. vacations and talk about how much they looked forward to them all year long.

We all — even people who write parenting columns — need regular reminders of how important it is to spend time alone with our kids when we do not allow the distractions of daily life to get in the way. Four years ago, when our youngest daughter, Sara, was ten years old, she and I were planning our N.B.A. vacation. I told her that I would take her shopping for the trip the night before and asked her if there was anything special she wanted me to purchase for our trip. With a straight face, she asked me to get her a cell phone battery. Perplexed, I asked her why she needed a battery for a cell phone she didn’t have.

“No, Tatty,” Sara responded with a twinkle in her eyes, “for this trip, I want you to take the battery out of your cell phone (disconnecting it, so we can spend uninterrupted time together) and give it to me.”



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1. Thank You     8/17/09 - 11:03 AM
Anonymous

Thank you, Rabbi Horowitz for a great column. Your advice is excellent. We all -- including you -- should stop visiting and contributing to this Web site. Instead, we should spend much more "quality" time with our children.


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2.     8/17/09 - 4:53 PM
Benzion Twerski

As always, this article is right on. I just have one serious problem with it. Its truth and obviousness should make it as interesting as the “dog bites man” newspaper stories. Why should such simple truths need to be said?

I do have one comment, which I believe to be true. The premise is that it is the child who makes the determination of “quality time”, not the parent. For the parent who carves out a precious, small block of time to spend with a child, it may not work. It sometimes takes a child a while to warm up to be able to experience that quality moment. Trouble is that there are so many variables that can extend the process, delay, or interfere that it is a challenge to create this opportunity. There is one solution – “quantity time”. This allows for more possibilities that the true moments of quality will be experienced. I am sure there are other factors that facilitate this. And as Rabbi Horowitz said so well, money or extravaganza has nothing to do with the experience of parental bonding.


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3. Quality vs. Quantity     8/17/09 - 5:16 PM
Menachem - Yerushalayim

All too true! The children need our time. The blackberry's etc. are so hurtful for the chidren, they get the feeling they are second to the blackberry or whatevr else. An important idea that might help lots of parents is the following: Sometimes parents are just too busy to make enough time for their children. The solution? Make time! But until then, it's the quality and not the quantity. The 5 minutes a night that you are home, do your children get the feeling that you are theirs and all theirs? or are they second... Make the small bits of time, quality time. Make the small bits of time, kodak moments!!


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4. Why Life Has Become So Difficult     8/18/09 - 3:08 AM
Dovid

I'm not diagreeing, but I think there's a serious problem in today's world that's making life so miserable for so many people.

The doctor tells you that if you're serious about your health, you would make the time to exercise, sleep enough and eat balanced meals. This must be a priority.

The dentist tells you that if you're serious about keeping your teeth, you'd make the time to properly brush, floss, pick and so on. This must be a priority.

The financial advisor tells you that if you're really serious about your family's finances, you'd make the time to research about best prices and take on an extra job. This must be a priority.

The rabbi tells you that if you're really serious about your Torah observance, you would make the time to learn seriously each day. This must be a priority.

The rabbi also tells you that if you're really serious about maintaining a strong community, you would make the time to get involved in the shul and chesed projects. This must be a priority.

The teachers/principals tell you that if you're really serious about your children's performance in school, you'd make the time to sit with them for homework and studying every day. This must be a priority.

The parenting advisor tells you that if you're really serious about your children's development, you would make the time to do fun things with them. This must be a priority.

The marriage counselor tells you that if you're really serious about maintaining a good marriage, you would make the time to spend meaningful time with your spouse, away from the kids, work and so on. This must be a priority.

The therapist tells you that if you're really serious about your own emotional well-being, then you would make the time to treat yourself to activities that you personally find enjoyable. This must be a priority.

I'm actually not a cynical person, but I, for one, find it practically impossible to do what Jewish life demands these days.


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5. Cat's in the cradle, Man in the moon     8/18/09 - 7:22 AM
Anonymous

Those in my generation may recognize the Tom Lehrer song, each stanza dealt with the boy who wanted to spend time with his father, each time the father was too busy or too tired. The son would say that's fine Dad, I'm going to be like you Dad, I'm going to be like you. The final stanza has the son home from college abd the father wanting to spend time but the son was too busy. The father realizes that "My son is just like me, my son is just like me."


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6. minor correction, and reply to Dovid     8/18/09 - 11:19 AM
Norma Demby - NJ

The song if I recall was sung by Harry Chapin. I recall hearing it even in NCSY (!)

And as for Dovid, yes, it's very overwhelming. Some things that used to be a priority for me, like a clean house, have become less important. I don't know if it's the demands of Jewish life, but it's certainly the demands of many kids and the need to earn a living (to pay for tuition) that take away time from these important priorities.


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7. What is quality time ?     8/18/09 - 1:14 PM
AK

Hi,

having fun with kids is important , but what connects is the fun, it does not mean that parent and child are interacting on a deeper and intimate level. This reminds me of the many kids who complain about their parents - they love me, show me warmth, dedicated, spend time with me, we have fun together, but I am a 'virtual child'. My father does not know me, he does not know how I think, what's important to me. He talks a lot but it is all superficial stuff, he never asks me what I am thinking, how i feel about things. If I did something bad or got into trouble, he is the last person I would like to know. If I mess up , he hits the ceiling, if my grades are not good he shows his disappointment. I have to live up to his expectations, what about me living my own life'

Plenty has been written on spending quantity and quality time with kids but most advice misses the essential piece - spend time listening to your kids, supporting their autonomy as individuals in their own right instead of doing to your 'virtual children' Spend time listening to their perspectives,asking to hear their own pshat on some learning or events.

Kodack moments don't tell much, give me a story of how a father helped his son get up after messing up or doing something bad.

AK


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8. Fun is kosher     8/18/09 - 3:19 PM
Anonymous

There is a relevant issue to this thread's subject which i believe has been misrepresented in our current 'charedi' lifestyle: the role of recreation, pleasure--plain old fun in our communal schedule. Our boys are encouraged to learn, learn, learn; our girls must study, cram as many credits into h.s. as possible, do tons of chessed; our women should devote spare time to shiurim and tehillim when their chores are done and chesed projects complete; our men should be in bais medrash every spare moment unless they are slaving away at the office. Everything else is shallow at best, bittul Torah, chas veshalom, at worst.

My own sense is that this intensity possibly borders on neurosis. I am not condoning leitzanus and hisparkus, but i do believe it is pleasing to Hashem when we take some time to enjoy the world He has created. Hashem's prohibition in Gan Eden not to eat from the eitz hadaas was preceeded by an equally significant but frequently overlooked MITZVAH commanding Adam and Chava to partake and enjoy the rest of the trees of the garden. See sefer Bereishis bifnim.

I believe we might actually enjoy more Kodak moments if we felt free to create them and and if we believed their enjoyment is not merely tolerated but encouraged by derech HaTorah. Instead, we convey the message to young boys with musical talent that it is best not to waste time in the choir; we tell our mesivta boys that 'real learners' go to learning camps rather than swim away precious summer days; we even frown upon weekend ballgames organized for yeshiva ketana boys and forbid such programs in our chashuv yeshivas.

In a word, we repress anything that is the least bit spirited, spontaneous, and colorful--the very stuff of any kodak moment.


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9.     8/19/09 - 5:30 AM
Anonymous

Dovid and Anonymous #8 are so on the mark, as is Rabbi Horowitz in the original article. We MUST create these "kodak moments", but between all our time constraints and most fun activities being "ossured" by Yeshivas and Rabbonim, we really are in a bind. I KNOW Rabbi Horowitz speaks of a dip in the lake, not something unkosher, but vei iz mihr if my Yeshiva boy will go skiing with me, who will get him into his next Yeshiva, next zman? We became intolerant of anything resembling "fun", it seems to me like "frum people are not entitled to anything fun". I did not miss Rabbi Horowitz's point, I know that Kodak moments can be made by baking cookies with my child or taking them to the local park, but I also understand that restrictions placed on our teenagers by the (chassidishe) yeshivas are unrealistic, as most fun activities are not allowed. Bike riding? Chas V'shalom. Skiing? Roller skating? Ice skating? You're a complete goy!!!

I think society has placed new pressures and unrealistic goals on today's teens, and Yeshiva's are missing the point. The NEW restrictions we face, with a gun to our throats, limit fun activities with our children, and make the ikkur the toful, and the toful, the ikkur. When the livush our child wears becomes less important and his simchas ha'chayim is valued more, we would all be better off. Then we would allow ourselves more kodak moments, enjoying the laughter emanating from happy children, even if they don't fit the cookie mold the community and yeshiva tried to create.


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10. Creating the moments     8/19/09 - 12:15 PM
Yoel B

Anonymous #9, the problem is that you can't "create" the moments. If you're too busy, you can guarantee that they won't happen. With young children, if you're too stuffy and full of yourself, the moments probably won't happen. There's a difference between being full of oneself and being dignified. True dignity has to do with appropriateness in the moment: sometimes, with your kids it's appropriate to be splashing in a stream or down on the floor playing horsie. It's very sad when a person is so fearful and uncomfortable with themselves that they can't trust themselves to be spontaneous with their kids (of course sometimes there may be something deeply wrong with a parent and if they can't or won't be helped, better that they should be on guard with themselves, but Rabbi Horowitz was writing about normal reasonably healthy people.)


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11. when am i suposed to take my son skiing?     8/24/09 - 8:49 AM
Anonymous - brooklyn

my son never gets a day off from yeshiva they never give these boys a break, the only time he has off is erev yom tov, i cant do anything with him then, the girls get winter vacation (just a few days, imight add) but the boys get nothing, then we wonder why the boys get out of control when they get married.


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12. commenter 11     8/24/09 - 5:27 PM
Anonymous

and when they do give the boys off half a day they make sure it's on a diff day than the girls so what is a parent to do to have family time and trips ? what are they so worried about anyway, if they're doing a decent job in our bais yaacovs and yeshivas what are they so nervous will HAPPEN for goodness sake that we have 2 schedule seperate vacation days for our boys and girls?


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13. to # 11     8/25/09 - 5:41 AM
bbg

SOMETIMES [not always]- once in a while we may apply "bitulah hie ki'umah".


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14. Cell Phones and Kids     9/4/09 - 7:00 AM
Anonymous

Rabbi Horowitz --

Your story with your youngest daughter reminds me of what happened yesterday when I took my ten-year-old son into the backyard to play catch. Just after we started, my cell phone went off. I took it out turned it off, told my son what I had done, saying, "I'm with you."

The smile on his face? A Kodak moment!


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15. Time     7/9/10 - 5:54 AM
Anonymous

To those of you who need to coordinate your sons and daughters time; it's OK to take them out of school. A mental health day is great for kids. My parents did it. And I do it with my kids -- it works great. a child doesn't have to go to school because the schedule says so.


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16. small moments add up, too     7/10/10 - 11:32 PM
Brooklyn Mom - Brooklyn

I sometimes take my boys out of school for lunch period, each son on a different day. This way they don't miss much school time, but a slice of pizza on a regular weekday becomes a big treat. It doesn't cost much in terms of time & money, but it really means a lot to them to get a (small) break from yeshiva & to spend some time alone with Mom.

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