There are many ups and downs to Jewish parenting. Most of the ups are obvious: academic achievements, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, giving birth, graduations and exciting employment opportunities, to cite the obvious.
However, there is another not-so-apparent category that deserves celebration—the flowering of friendships between your adult children and those of your personal friends.
Usually there are many opportunities throughout our children’s childhoods for contact with our friends’ children. As youngsters, they may have played together beautifully. But often these early encounters have no lasting effect. But sometimes they do.
Recently I experienced this often unsung form of “naches” from each of my adult daughters. In one instance, my 29-year-old, a special educator in a local public school, bonded with my friend’s young adult daughter, also a public school educator. These two dedicated young women had been thrown together for 20 years as part of our synagogue “havurah.” Witnessing the recent blossoming of their adult friendship is a source of great pleasure to both her mother and me.
Likewise, the son of one of my oldest and dearest friends from out of town has reconnected with my 27-year-old daughter, as both share similar careers in the field of journalism. His mom and I pushed these two in baby strollers side by side.
When I reexamine my own friendships, I realize I have a limited but precious number of so-called “family friends” whom I met because their parents were my own parents’ dear friends. One such friend is the daughter of my 97-year-old mother’s co-counselor at Camp Naomi, whom my mother bonded with some 80 years ago! To this day, this childhood friend and I, along with my sister and her brothers, hold a special place in our collective hearts. My own mother is naturally the repository of rich intergenerational memories.
So what is the explanation for this special brand of “naches?”
There is an iconic biblical sentence that partially explains it: “Hazor’im bedimah berinah yik’tzoru”—”Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
Otherwise translated, when raising children, you just never know! But we have faith that our efforts will bear fruit.
For me, these special relationships are an affirmation that perhaps some of the values I share with my friends that we strived to imbue in our children have stuck, and have been successfully transmitted to the next generation. My hope for them is that these bonds will remain solid.
Friends are, after all, the “family” you actually get to pick because you deeply care about them.
Like us, our children will continue to expand their circles of friends in ways unique to them. But hopefully they will also retain a few of these family friendships. Seeing my own adult children do so is a special blessing worthy of celebration.
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