Thursday, February 6, 2014

What hurts Daddy?

That’s just about as subtle as I can be on the subject. 
So of course, when my wife found a cigarette in our teenage son’s room, I felt justified in acting like an idiot. 
After all:
I know the health statistics; he doesn’t.
I saw people die from smoking ;he didn’t.
I led private and corporate smoking cessation seminars ; he didn’t.
I was exposed to a western anti-smoking  media blitz; he wasn’t.
So I planned a strategy that would be full proof; a zealous crusade to save my dear son. I didn’t know it yet, but my zealotry was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to manipulate my son into being the person that I want him to be.
Starting before he left for Yeshiva in the morning (6:30am) and from the moment he returned at night (9:15pm), I began to bombard him with all of the mortality statistics, anti-smoking pictures and frightening stories that I could find. He literally got up and went to sleep with me in his face; ranting and raving about the evil habit and the peers who had influenced him to smoke in the first place.
To my utter amazement, he still wouldn’t stop.
I was incredulous… beyond rage.  How ironic, that despite having worked with hundreds if not a thousand smokers, I was failing so miserably with my own son. I agonized further:
“Why didn’t he come to me…now he was hooked..…I thought we had a great relationship… why didn’t he let me help him.”
My mind raced:  “if he’ll defy me to smoke, what else will he defy me to do?”
Lucky for him I’m not a single parent. My wife and I sat down. She said: “You know you’re going to have to back off. You’re only making things worse with your tirades.  Zev, you know he’s a great kid. So he’s smoking a little.” 
 I couldn’t believe my ears. My blood pressure surged.  “So he’s smoking a little?” I repeated back (raising the volume a bit). 
 “Look Zev. He is going to stop, but not because you demand him too. We’re in Israel now. It’s just a fact that he sees a lot of his friends smoking.  As long as you stay angry at him you can forget about having any part in the solution.  Do me a favor and from now on, just stay out of it. Leave it to me!” 
I knew that she was right. I (the big smoking expert) was nothing but an impediment.
So I kept my mouth shut and he stopped the next day!
Shabbos came, and I started to calm down.  But I was still uneasy about the way that I had behaved.  I went outside to check-in with Hashem:
“Hashem, what happened here?  It was so out-of-character for my son to smoke cigarettes.  I must have done something to displease You. Please help me to see what’s going on.  I know that You were telling me something, but the sound of my own will, once again drowned out Your message. I’m sorry.  Show me, please, what I need to learn from this.”  
I walked back home feeling better.  Coming into the living room, I saw my son sitting on the couch. He’s 16. 
Smiling warmly, he said “Tatti (father) can we talk?”
Humbled but relieved I said: “sure.”
“Did mommy tell you that I stopped smoking?”
“Yes, she did.”
“And do you know why I stopped Tatti (father)?” Continue here...

Wishing you a fabulous day!
Dr. Zev Ballen