Too often I feel that I have to be "strong", and reflect outward the kind of inner strength readily translated as that someone with whom my sons are able to feel safe and secure. That wasn't happening so fast up there on the bema. As I was connecting more directly with the hidden emotional agenda of my Dvar Torah, I was in danger of folding like a house of cards. Davi might even have sensed this, as he seemed ever so sensitive to and touched by my genuineness in emotional expression. I spotted a speckle of tears in his eyes as he placed a hand on my arm, and in his offering of strength said, "You got this, father." I took a deep breath, and carried on.
But, it is not only children who need authority. We all do. We all need to feel that the right people are in charge so that we feel safe and secure, and that there is order in our life. And yet, when we believe that we can't trust the people in charge, we become anxious, fearful even, in a world where there is no authority to respect or trust, and that our best interests are not kept at heart. From the start, I had wanted to be the type of parent whose authority deserves respect and is listened to. Yes, I know... I have teenagers in my charge. I've learned the hard way to take what I can get! I know I am far from the perfect parent, but I work hard to provide the kind of loving care that is buffered by clear limits and fair consequences in order for which to grow from, and which honor and integrity prevail.
As they say, "there wasn't a dry eye in the house." I had succeeded beyond what I initially thought I had intended to achieve. I realize that at the end of the day, parenting should be approached as a partnership rather than as an exercise in seeking to dominate and control, the very antithesis of raising children who learn to become accountable for themselves. As this holds special relevance for the single parent, I often find myself saying to my sons, "I can't do it by myself. We need to work together as a team." After all, each one of us wakes up every morning with hopes for how the day will transpire; each one of us holds a stake in the day's outcome. So long as I carry out my parental authority as it is meant— to protect, nurture, and guide, my perspective remains lucid, and the better I am able to keep my emotions in check that best reflects my inner strength.
Dr. Gary Matloff is a licensed psychologist, and a proud single, adoptive father to a pair of brothers, now thirteen and sixteen years-old. He is the author of See You Tomorrow... Reclaiming the Beacon of Hope— A true story about resilience, and the journey of a lifetime for this pair of brothers and their new father against the sometimes all too uncompromising reality of adoption older children and international adoption.