Even for the Narishkeit You Need Patience
During a seminar I attended, we were asked to do visualizations to switch our outlook on any one person in our life. I chose to work on my relationship with my mother, a former school principal made of the sterner stuff. On the directive of “go”, I was to visualize her in another way, see another side of her. The only thing that kept floating about my brain was a vision of my mother in a gracefully-full dress racing around a small bungalow and giggling as we played a game of “Spot You”. Most people play hide-and-go-seek, but that can be quite a stationary activity for those in hiding. My parents devised a new version of this game. There was a small bungalow on our property and the “it” person had to race around that bungalow trying to “spot” one of the other players who were also scooting around it. Basically, the game consisted of running around a bungalow; but the fun in it was that my parents were running around with us, too.
In one of my favorite childhood photos, I have a picture of my father perched on my bike, his knees out at awkward angles, his black hat perched squarely on his head. My father is not the type of person who is all about fun and sports, so it made my eyes pop when he climbed onto the bike and showed me how he rides a bike. Mighty fine, I thought. Even better was the fact that he was spending time with me teaching me how to ride it. The bike became a whole lot more enjoyable to me because of the time my father accorded it and me.
Chol Hamoed, Intermediary holiday days, my parents loaded food, children, blankets and more into our van and off to see the world we went. Just like Matza was anticipated for Pesach, so, too, were the outings. D.C., NiagraFalls, amusement parks, West Point, the UN. We were introduced to a whole slew of tourist spots on the Eastern seaboard, but had a blast while doing it.
My parents explained their choice to spend fun times with us by telling us, “We learned from the Newhouses, that even for Narishkeit you need patience.” They made sure we knew they were doing all these fun things just for us, because they had been taught by master educators Rabbi and Rebbetzin Newhouse that children need adults to be interested in the things which interest them. And that you have to make time and patience for those childish things in order to be an effective parent.
I discussed in a previous post the fact that Koheles begins with telling us how futile this world is, expressing the word Hevel [nonsense] seven times. The commentators explain the significance of those seven listings of narishkeit. One view is that each stage in life comes with its own charms and interests which quickly wane as the person ages. For example, at five years of age, the child loves the sandbox. At thirty, not so much anymore. Yet, for a child to be healthy, you must let the child progress from stage to stage. You cannot deny the child the validity of the Hevel, of the stage of interest, that is age-appropriate. In fact, the Talmud brings examples of this – it tells us there was no formal schooling on Shabbat so that fathers could play “horsey” with their kids, riding them on their backs. And that one Talmud sage bought his son pottery to be able to shatter for amusement.
Enter the teens who invaded my life and came to live with me. In order to house, clothe and feed them, I had to juggle a couple of jobs. Life was hectic…and tiring. Came a holiday and all I wanted to do was to stay home and catch my breath. Then I remembered that I had been taught you must have patience for the Narishkeit. Off to Boston, the JerseyShore, to amusement parks and touristy spots I went. When you are the adult pretending to be interested in the childish or adolescent past-times, it takes a lot of self-control and patience. You have to find a way to enjoy it, though your sense of what is enjoyable is way past that stage. You have to find the wherewithal to be there with children at their present stage, enthused as they are about experiencing their lives.
Who knows, perhaps many folks in my life are polite enough not to tell me still to this day that they must tap into their own reservoir of patience skills to put up with my Narishkeit. There is nothing more foolish than being too proper for another person’s foolishness. So, now, when I’m around a child, I realize I have to be “there” at their Narishkeit level for them. That might mean hearing jokes that make me gag and make them giggle. Deep breathe, meditate, visualize my mom in her full-skirted dress pounding the pavement around a small bungalow, and I can do the same – I can give a child a sense of being there with them exactly at their age and stage.
 Yiddish for foolishness
 The founder of Bais Yaakov elementary school and camp in New York.