The following true story is reprinted from an article by Rabbi Yitzie Ross, a columnist and 4th grade rebbe. It is reprinted with his kind permission.
A boy who is in 2nd grade won a donut from his Rebbe on Sunday [two weeks before Pesach]. He had answered a very difficult question in class and was on cloud nine. When his mother came for pickup, he ran over with his donut and a huge smile. Before he could explain, his mother let him have it. “Don’t you THINK about bringing that into our car! We just had it cleaned, and I told you this ten times already!” The spark from his eyes faded more with each word, and when she was done with her rant he was silent. He dropped the donut into the garbage and
went into the “Kosher for Pesach” car. As sad as this sounds, it happens all the time.
Apparently this mom didn’t want to rely on Bitul Chametz (Shulchan Aruch 434:2 and Mishna Brurah note 6 thereon). She was m’vatail her child instead, crushing his well earned simchas haChaim.
Did the child recover from this blow? Probably; I certainly hope so. However, resilience in children is correlated with supportive parents.1 I hope his father soothed him later that day.
How can we be me’lamed zchus on this mom and the other parents with whom this happens all the time?
Here’s one possibility:
You may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. (National Institute of Mental Health NIMH)
It may be that some parents suffer from a seasonal bout with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).2 Remember, I am not saying this in a derogatory way. I’m being me’lamed zchus, trying to find a way to explain such insensitive behavior towards a child. Not to justify it, but to understand how it could happen.
There is an important difference between Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Persons with OCD display the same symptoms or behaviors as those with OCPD. The difference is that persons with OCD suffer with it. They wish they could stop behaving that way.
Those with OCPD believe that that are doing the right thing and wonder why other people don’t do things the way they do.
As you can imagine, that makes it much less likely that someone with OCPD will seek help; they think they’re fine the way they are.
I hope that by highlighting the collateral damage they do to those around them, I will move them to wish to change.
And now, as you know, I am much more interested in determining how to do better next time than in affixing blame and dwelling on failure. So let’s look at what alternatives are available to a parent with a freshly Pesach cleaned car who sees a child coming at said immaculate car with, GASP, a donut in his hand!
The first recommendation to this parent is, as usual, slow down. Get out of the car before your child gets there and greet her with a smile. Ask her to tell you how she got the donut. When she tells you she earned it for asking a great question, join her in her pride and excitement. Now, express your concern about how to get the donut from school to home in a Pesach cleaned car. It is a valid concern and I’d like you to share it with your child. If she has no suggestions, you get to come up with some.
The next possibility is based on the Gemara in Tamid 32a, Aizehu chaham? Ho-roeh es ha-nolad, Who is the wise person? One who anticipates eventualities. I suggest that right after Purim, parents place a box of slider closure plastic bags into each of their cars. (Not zipper closure. I can’t get them to close, I wouldn’t expect it of a child.) Then, when a child shows up with unsealed chometz, you get of the car and seal it into a plastic bag.
If you have run out of slider bags, get out of the car and ask your child how he could get wrapping for his chometz item. Don’t underestimate the resourcefulness of your child, even a second grader. Let him go back into school and see what he comes back with.
In the worst case scenario where there is nothing in which to wrap the prized chometz, you get to choose between making your child suffer the loss of his prize or taking out your hand held vacuum when you get home and doing some Pesach cleaning touch-up.
And one more possibility. When you’ve had your car cleaned, send a note to your child’s rebbe and teacher asking that they send home only sealed chometz until after Pesach. Maybe some enterprising fellow or lady will print up stickers that say, “Only Sealed Chometz Please” to be mailed to parents by a tzedakah organization before Pesach!
Any one of these solutions protects your child’s feelings while respecting your concerns. And that me-halech is desirable in many situations all year round.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
“… parental warmth, responsiveness and sensitivity foster the development of self-regulation, and can buffer the effects of other stressors (Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress, OPRE Report #2015-30, 2015)”
2 Excerpts from DSM-5 on Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
Diagnostic Criteria include:
Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion.
Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
Diagnostic Features include:
Individuals with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are excessively careful and prone to repetition, paying extraordinary attention to detail and repeatedly checking for possible mistakes. They are oblivious to the fact that other people tend to become very annoyed at the delays and inconveniences that result from this behavior.
Note: The term “DSM 5” refers to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, the taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association