Question: I am extremely annoyed at my daughter, my oldest married child. Lately, her boys have been coming home from cheder with these trading cards that basically preach against having a smart phone. Each card has a cartoon on it, words, or otherwise indicate reasons why not to have a smart phone. First of all, I find these cards extremely disrespectful. Some pictures, for example, have white-bearded religious looking men using a smart phone, and have words or depictions of them in ways that make fun of them. In addition, once I came to their home, and hanging on the outside door was a sign saying that anyone using a smart phone should not enter their home. My husband and I both have smartphones, we are very ehrlich and have them filtered, and are very concerned about this disrespect fostered in her home against us, their grandparents first of all, and in general towards other people who may not be as frum or keep chumros in precisely the manner my grandchildren are being raised. We are pretty upset about this, and when we told our daughter and son-in-law they just laughed it away as a phase their children are going through (although neither have smartphones b’shitah). We feel strongly that we should not go visit them again in their home until that sign is taken down and those card thrown out. How should we be feeling and reacting to this situation?

Answer:

Disclaimer here: I know those trading cards because my grandchildren have them too and actually, I find them quite brilliant and funny. But maybe I can afford to find them funny because recently, once leaving work each day, I have given up my smart phone for a kosher phone (no text!). But I do agree with you that these cards—while accurate in their depictions in how silly we look and act with our smart phones—as you say, are extremely disrespectful to anyone using them.

You have sneakily snuck in a lot of aspects to this problem within your question, and let me identify them all so we can address each one and figure this out.

Firstly, those cards are disrespectful towards smartphone users in general, and to you as grandparents in particular. Secondly, according to you, it breeds intolerance of others who may not be as religious. Thirdly, you are wondering how to feel about this situation, and fourth, you are wondering how to react to this situation. (Note how I am differentiating between feeling and acting in regard to this situation.) The fifth and last part is your daughter’s and her spouse’s flippant reaction to your concerns and how that plays a role in what is happening here.

This is the kind of question I love answering because I know I am going to make a lot of people angry and then I am going to get hate mail and as I read all those self-righteous letters, I am going to laugh my head off. So heads up: trigger warnings for all of you out there that love to hate me.

Let me delineate some boundaries here so we don’t get confused with religiosity (rules of a religion), spirituality (relationship with Hashem), and my role here as a therapist/advice columnist versus rebbetzin. Let me make it very clear that my response, although informed by my religiosity, is not religious in nature; it is addressing the psychological underpinnings of this question and can be applied to any situation in which values between married children and their parents are in conflict. Religious or not.

So first off, if you remember your own years of raising children, you know you need to pick your battles carefully. If these cards are trading cards, and if they are being traded among friends, earned for good behavior at cheder or chevras Tehillim, or given as rewards, I ask you very simply if it’s worth the trouble of battling with a bunch of little boys to whom this is a passing phase (as your daughter intelligently realizes). The less you make a deal about them, the more easily they will go the way of the billions of other trading cards your children (and mine) have gone through without giving them a second thought come Pesach when they gleefully dumped their year’s worth of cards into the bedikas chametz bonfires.

We know that books, otherwise destined to oblivion, become bestsellers when they are attacked in public forums. Don’t make these cards bestsellers. Given the nature of trading cards, they will be gone eventually.

These cards are disrespectful? If you read those cards, unfortunately they accurately portray how ridiculous we look with our smart phones. We disrespect ourselves when we use them. I say bravo to these creators for influencing a generation of children to its ridiculousness and perhaps making them aware that they have choices whether or not to become those mindless, addicted, users of smartphones in which hours are wasted in serious nonsense. And for those that use it for business, what business exactly are you doing when you are visiting grandchildren?

You have not indicated the age of your grandchildren, but if they are old enough to even be able to read the sign on the door, they are old enough for you to have a conversation about the smart phone. Yours. Ask them what makes a smart phone so terrible. Hear what they have to say. What leads to intolerance is not opinions but an inability to have a conversation. So teach them to dialogue about differences of opinions. I would be interested to hear how you would defend your need for a smart phone; I would be interested to know if they even have an educated understanding of why gedolim are speaking out against owning a smart phone. To raise tolerant, non-judmental childeren you need to show them how to understand their said opinions, their actions; how to live with others (you) despite a difference of opinions. You can model that for them with your own ability to seek to understand them and their choices; whether or not you agree with them. It’s part of chinuch. It’s not chinuch for adults to fight on the level of a child, by getting insulted by a child’s immature actions of trading cards, of hanging up a sign on the front door because his friend did the same. (And if he got that sign from his rebbe, think even harder before entering into a confrontational mode! That’s when you need to take it up with a higher system; and if you don’t want to do that, imagine asking a child to…)

As an adult you can feel however you would like to about these cards and that offensive (to you) sign; as an adult you don’t have permission to react however you would like to. Kibud Av Va’em is not al icense to impose your opinions on your children; it’s a mandate to educate them properly in areas religious, spiritual, and ethical. I don’t know what kind of chinuch you would imparting to either your married daughter or her children that a solution to ideological differences is cutting off a relationship and using power and control to demand obeisance.

And my reaction to your daughter’s and spouse reaction to the cards and sign? Smart people. It’s easier to raise children when you can laugh a little and not take everything they do or say so seriously. Maybe you were a smart parent after all to raise such a daughter?

So go visit your grandchildren. Dialogue with them. And leave your smart phone at home so they can have your undivided attention!

 

 

 

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