Posted on January 20th, 2016

After the Fall – We Have to Be Teenagers First

mean-girlsYesterday, I was talking with a mom whose twelve year-old is navigating the world of mean kids. “Lily” brings her zeal and her stick-to-itiveness to the challenge of socializing: She keeps going back to the mean girls in the hopes that they will want to be her friend.

Mom explained, much to her daughter’s surprise, that Lily didn’t have to be “popular.” Lily had assumed that “popularity” was the social world to which she was expected to aspire. “You should find kids who actually like the things you do.” Mom told her. “Don’t waste your time and your feelings on kids who won’t give you what you want.”

In Genesis, humanity falls from Eden. All was well and whole inside us and in the world until…it wasn’t. The world became a place where we could suffer or struggle or feel elation. We would have work the land for our food and earn our bread through the sweat of our brows. We had to become adult humans through our labor and its teachings.

The best moments of adult life are as a satisfied “tiller of land,” harvesting the crops, finally, with abundance—with a new sense of creating our own Eden. But, teens are just leaving Eden.

Lily’s mom pleaded with me, “Why can’t I just tell her it isn’t worth playing the popularity game? Why can’t she just believe me and avoid all the pain and disappointment?”

We cannot create any new Edens, unless we feel the pain of leaving in the first place. It is necessary for Lily to feel this pain and to learn from it. And it is necessary for her mom to feel this parenting pain as she lets her. If Mom does it for her, none of us will ever see the amazing new garden that is Lily’s to create.

Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg, RJE is the Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette HillPA.  A writer, dancer, cook and activist, Rabbi Tornberg loves working with colleagues on joint projects and spending time with her children, Ruthie and Elijah.  She is a graduate of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.