One of my most powerful memories of childhood is of being held by my father, of blessed memory. When I close my eyes I can feel his strong arms holding me, and his scratchy unshaved jaw against my four year old face, a tactile memory that, 48 years later, still evokes a sense of safety. The inner knowledge of love, warmth, connection, closeness, and okay-ness. Daddy’s holding me, everything’s okay. And I’m okay too.
The Torah tells us that Moses carried the Jewish people as a nurse carries a nursing infant. And the Rabbis tell us that God held us in the desert for 40 years, and continues to hold us still, as a mother holding her child. We have only to reach out and open ourselves up to feel the embrace. We need to follow His lead.
We know that part of being a parent, perhaps the most important part, is the task of creating a “holding environment” in our home, a place where each child is held and feels held throughout his lifetime. First and foremost, a holding environment is a safe one. Each child must feel safe, safe in the sense that no one will intentionally harm him, and secure in the knowledge that he is loved, and is a part of something bigger than himself. He belongs and is accepted.
Each child must feel safe, secure in the knowledge that he is loved, and is a part of something bigger than himself.
We hold our children when we are careful with their feelings. We hold our children when we pay attention to them, when we give them time and really listen when they talk to us. We hold our children with our smiles, kind words, and words of encouragement. We hold our children when we are a rock they can depend on, a shoulder to cry on, an understanding heart, happy for them in their joy, and empathic in their pain.
We also hold our children when we hold them responsible for their actions, when we insist on accountability for the tasks that are theirs, when we assertively ask them to apologize when they have hurt us or others. And when we hold them responsible for their behavior, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we are still holding them, and the message must be, “I love you and care about you and I expect more of you.”
We continue to hold our children during their adulthood. I continue to feel held by my mother when I see her joy and the nachas she so eloquently communicates with her eyes. We hold our children when we walk them down the aisle to the Chuppah, and when we hold their children.