Divergent Offspring

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

Children As Blessings

Children As Demons


   There is the “Yetzer Horre or the Yetzer Tov.”  The former is the contradictory, evil spirit within the human who takes pleasure in harming other humans with whom he comes in contact.  The yetzer tov is the good spirit that the kind being has within him and which he (“he” will be used for both genders) expresses “bechol levovcho, bechol nafchecho, ufchol meodecho,” with his heart, his soul, and his hand and which makes him a blessing to his parents.  The child who is a blessing, honors and loves his parents from childhood to old age.  He will do all he can to make those who gave him life as comfortable and honored as possible.  He will refrain from hurting or embarrassing them and will lend a hand and an ear when needed. He will appreciate his elders' independence as much as he does his own.

    Parents love the children most who are those with the good heart.  They want to love them all but the Yetzer Horre is the oppositional one, the narcissist, the fault finder who is more concerned with his ego, his domination, his overblown feelings of control.

    The majority of Jewish adults (and others) will be in the Yetzer Tov category toward their beloved parents.  There  are others who will be described here, who embarrass their parents,  diminish them, and treat them with disdain (mevayish machen – considered one of the greatest sins is to embarrass another human being, especially if they are the parents of the perpetrator).

     The child with the lev tov (good heart) remembers his parents and all that they sacrificed for him.  The night that Mom or Dad stayed up by his bedside because he had a fever or a menacing allergy.  The money Mom spent to keep him (or her) well.  The many trips that were made to buy the foods that he could eat to protect him against an allergic reaction.  The expenditure that went into her clothing to have her fit in with the other teenagers.  The stories, the reminiscences Mom or Dad told to give him a feeling for his roots.  The beliefs or disbeliefs that were shared to give him an identity, a uniqueness, an appreciation of his heritage, his forebears, his being.  The many hours that both parents spent in working to give the child what he needed to be well and happy.  The many trips that she spent to protect her child to keep him from being ridiculed bullied.  The joyful times that they all vacationed, making sure that the young ones were included in the determination of the journeys.  The times that he was ill in the midst of the leisure times and Mom stayed with him in the room instead of enjoying the long awaited “time off.”  The many birthday parties with groups of children to feed and entertain so that the son felt important.   There is so much more that can be described.  The homework written for her to get her through the class that she would have failed, the vehicle that was lent or given to make life easier for him, and much, much more.

     The grown son or daughter will feel good toward the parents that loved and sacrificed for him from birth on.  The secrets that were kept and the love and respect that were shared.  The adult child remembers.  He does not dwell on the bent back, the forgetfulness, the hearing and sight difficulties and the symptoms that come with aging.  He is a part of this human being who gave him birth, who adored him, who sheltered and protected him, who gave him unconditional love.  He returns her love by giving of himself in return.  He receives pleasure from remembering all that he is and all the intimacy and culture that he shared.  He will share, respect, and remember.  He will make life worthwhile for those that have given so much and looked on with joy and devotion to see him grow and become a “Mensch” with all of his perfections and otherwise.

    The Yetzer Horre child is one who is critical of those who have given him life and love.  He grows into a taker. He pities himself and holds his parents responsible for imperfections.  He uses drugs, associates with “undesirables,” thus feeling as a part of the chosen “group” who project all of their failures unto those who came before him.  When he seeks companionship, he finds those who will give give sex readily without restrictions.  He wants to “enjoy” and never give.  Taking is his “modus operandi.”  When  he feels ready he marries out of his religion or race, regardless of his early teachings.  He is “liberal” to prove his independence. He belittles his parents whenever an opportunity presents itself.  He hates being seen with his mother, lets her know his dislike of her, and disrespects his father as well.  He forgets who helped him to do his homework and who helped him to get through life’s difficult times.  He cares mostly for his prestige, his physical joys, and how much he can get from those who feel “guilty” for being rightfully angry.

     Even the “good” child can be very hurtful to the aging parent.  She can be domineering, directive, disrespectful, and show her disdain.  She forgets the love and care she was given, the teachings and learnings, the adulation, the sacrifices that were made, and all that went into helping her to accomplish the successes that are hers.  She will criticize the mother, refuse to ride in the car with her, belittle her for abilities and her skills. The evil son (or daughter) can be evil in many ways.  Hurting his parents with words, belittling them, taking away their independence or ignoring their needs, utilizing excuses to assist them in any necessity.

      Like the four sons in the Haggadah, we must remember that each son is different. We all want the “good” son.  The one that loves and respects us, encourages our independence, and helps us when needed.


              *The Yiddish/Hebrew words used in this essay are phonetically written in this essay.

             * “He” or “She” are used intermittently to describe both parent and child.

 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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