Then, they got frum, and everything changed.
Everything was great, until Miriam's teenage kid came to her one day, and told her that he didn't want to keep Shabbat anymore. Miriam was stunned, disappointed and hurt. She was also furious. After all the sacrifices that she and her husband had made to return to Judaism, how could her son be so ungrateful, shallow and superficial as to turn his back on it all?
After all, he'd had every advantage: he'd been sent to Jewish school; he knew Hebrew; he was comfortable going to shul, and eating kosher, and had a ton of 'frum' friends to hang out with.
For weeks, things got very, very tense at home.
Until one Friday night, after a particular tense face-off with her son, Miriam's reserve finally cracked, and she started saying the most horrible, terrible things to her wayward teen, at full volume, in front of her husband the rest of the kids.
The son visibly blanched, and stalked off to his room, slamming the door loudly behind him.
"Great!" Miriam started ranting. "He's going to listen to music, and smoke, and break Shabbat and do all the other things that deadbeats like him do!"
The other children looked at her, shocked, and now it was Miriam's turn to visibly blanch and stalk off to her own room, slamming the door loudly behind her.
Then, the internal fight of the century began:
"Stuff him, the ungrateful so-and-so. I give up. I can't help this kid. He's so broken and I just can't fix him. I just want to go to sleep, and forget all about him…"
But her soul wouldn't let her. As she lay there, her soul started prompting her to go and fix the mess that was being made.
"I can't!" she remonstrated.
"But you must…" her soul replied. "He's no worse than you were at his age. And in many ways, he's still so much better."
After half an hour, Miriam swallowed her pride and went to visit her son, who was angrily staring at the wall, lying on his bed, and pretending not to see her.
Miriam apologised. Miriam told her son that she loved him. Miriam took a deep breath, and told her son that she wanted to hear his side. To hear what he really thought, and to find out why Shabbat was so hard for him.
After five minutes, her son finally softened up and started to talk a little. Miriam held her tongue, asked God to give her strength and patience, and just listened.
To be an individual
Her son explained that he wasn't them. He was desperate to be an individual. To find his own path in life.
"You got to wherever you got to, but you're 46, and I'm only 15," he said mournfully. "You can't expect me to get to where you are. I need to make my own mistakes."
Painful as it was to hear, Miriam felt in the depth of her soul that her son was right. Sobbing, she reached over to hug him, then left the room.
Later on, after a long, intense session of talking to God about it all, Miriam realised that God has infinite patience for people. Yes, she didn't want her son to make the same mistakes she had. She wanted him to live a good, happy, spiritual, 'perfect' life. But God showed her that sometimes, for some souls, that can only be earned by experience, and not acquired for free.
God also reassured her that as long as she continued to pray for her son and to see the good in him, he wouldn't go too far away. Sooner or later, he'd come back - to God, to observant Judaism, to Miriam.
And when he did, Miriam knew he'd be better, wiser, and happier, and most importantly of all, he'd truly be him.