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The Jewish Report Editorial

Modelling being an adult

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When we go to bed at night, we need to be able to look ourselves in the eye and feel proud – or at least satisfied – with what we have done that day or how we are doing in life.

Most nights, I guess, we go to bed exhausted and don’t bother to consider much. On other days or times of the year, it’s more obvious and we feel the need to look at our lives and situation.

As we have just entered the Hebrew month of Elul, which is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it’s traditionally time for personal stocktaking and introspection.

A number of people I know have a gratitude habit and every night before they go to bed, they write or make a mental list of all they are grateful for. Others consider how far they have got in realising their goals and dreams.

I know that to some it seems absurd to put such pressure on yourself every evening. They don’t see the value of looking back on their day and wondering if they treated people with respect and did good. Did they say things that would hurt someone? Were they honest and did they act with integrity? Did they do something they wished they hadn’t, or something they could be proud of?

Even if you don’t make this a habit, you know what you have done and how you have done it. It’s hard to escape, as we are generally our own toughest critics.

On the particular day you took a bribe from a traffic cop or had a close shave when you were driving and texting, you know what you did. Probably, you’ll find many a reason why it was acceptable – “So much corruption in the country anyway”; “It was only R50, and he probably needed it more than I did – besides, the shlep of going to pay a fine…” I could go on.

But whatever you do, you aren’t just doing it for yourself, you are setting an example for others, particularly your children, grandchildren, or youngsters who look up to you.

What example are you setting when you spend the evening running down the government or this country? What example are you setting when you spend a Shabbos meal discussing how the country has gone to the dogs?

What do your children think when all they hear at home is their parents’ misery and anger?

In the piece on page 15, we find out from experts just how this negativity – that we mostly don’t think about when we have discussions – is having an impact on our children.

Yes, there are problems in South Africa and there are problems in our world. Yes, there is antisemitism and racism, and we are faced with economic hardship, but if it’s hard for us to face, just how tough is it for our children?

I recall 16 June, 1976, when my parents spoke in hushed tones about how life, as we knew it, was over in South Africa. As a little girl, I imagined the absolute worst, and was terrified because my parents were clearly fearful. I don’t recall what they said, but I remember feeling afraid for what would happen in the next few days. Would they send us away? I have always had a vivid imagination, and it went wild in the worst possible ways. I was also an avid reader and had read The Diary of Anne Frank and other Holocaust stories, which didn’t help.

Fast forward to the present, and I realise that during the COVID-19 lockdown, adults have had little privacy as the entire family is at home. Adult conversations that didn’t happen in the dead of night have often been overheard by children.

These conversations, our opinions, and the way we live our lives are modelled to our children every day. They hear us, and they follow our lead. If we think the government is useless, how do we expect them to understand our reason for living here?

If you are constantly critical of their school and teachers, should you be surprised if they are too and act on this?

If you think it’s acceptable to break certain laws, don’t expect them to be law abiding citizens.

We don’t break laws, do we? Well, how many people do you know who travelled to other provinces during the recent level 4 lockdown when that was outlawed? And they went with their children. That’s just one example. There are many.

I recall the number of people I heard discussing how they had slipped onto the beach with their children for a quick swim after that was outlawed in December last year. Again, it seems innocent and the law seemed really silly, but swimming in the sea was contravening the law. As is walking around outside your home without a mask or not social distancing.

The point is, you may be able to look yourself in the eye about breaking those laws, but you are modelling that to your children.

They also see how you treat people, and how you treat each other. Do you gossip behind people’s backs? Most of us do.

At the end of the day, none of us is perfect. Certainly, I’m far from that. However, I’m becoming more and more aware of how I model being an adult.

And while I may not be able to change the world singlehandedly, I certainly can do my best to model being an adult for my young ones and those who respect me.

I also believe that emotions and behaviour spread quicker than words. So do aggression and positivity. I would certainly rather model positivity and uplifting emotions than aggression and negativity. You with me?

Shabbat Shalom!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dita

    Aug 12, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    A very thought provoking article. I agree whole heartedly with your sentiments. I had a little prickle of guilt here and there and I am not a mother or a grandmother but I am a friend, and aunt and an adult. Modelling is so important and I know that I am not a perfect citizen. What an excellent reminder to consider who I am and what I bring to the world each day. Thank you Peta.

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