Rabbi Moshe New in Montreal, defines being grown up as: “the ability to fully integrate that which we know, practically.” He then goes on to reference the Kabbalah, which has a Hebrew word for this: da’at. Da’at is usually translated as “to know,” but according to Rabbi New, it also means “to connect.”
So if I understand this statement, Rabbi New says that adulthood is a way of turning what we know into a practical application, and therefore knowledge creates behavior. And this connection between knowing and doing is what makes an adult.
It’s interesting, no?
On the one hand, I do agree. The process of integrating knowledge, belief, and action is definitely an important adult trait. But I think there’s so much more to adulthood.
Childhood is a time when nearly everything is done for you, and nearly everything is given to you. Adulthood is a time when almost nothing is done for you, and almost nothing is given to you. And the growing up part? That’s what comes in between.
As a parent, I’m finding it difficult to find that balance. I love my kids and a big part of me wants to make their lives easier. But on the other hand, I don’t want to give my kids everything — the benefit of every doubt, the easy way out, solving all their problems for them. They need to make that transition between childhood and adulthood, not all at once, but slowly, in steps.
So, when my 14-year-old doesn’t start his English paper until 9:30 pm and struggles with understanding Shakespeare — do I help him? Or do I let him struggle and perhaps fail, but maybe learn an important lesson? When my 11-year-old prefers to do things entirely “by myself, mom!” do I remind her for the 400th time to bring her soccer gear to school since she’ll be going directly to practice, or I do I let her forget a few times in hopes of learning that lesson?
I remember those same questions when they were smaller, but the topics were different. When my daughter was a newborn, I didn’t expect her to sleep through the night. By the time she was 18 months, I surely did. But where, in between, would I set limits in order to encourage sleep? It was a difficult balance. Where to draw the line?
Parenting, to me, is helping my kids become adults. And adulthood is about independence, making your own choices, and understanding that no one owes you much. But helping my kids get there? That’s not something I find easy to do.