Once he threw a spectacular fit when a friend of mine was visiting. At that time Rahm was three and we had yet to reduce parental love by even a few percentage points. Our baby was the sovereign ruler of the household. He had established a law that only his favorite music could be played in the car or the house. For several weeks we had been listening exclusively to "The Singing Rabbis", a collection of folksy Jewish songs that someone had given us. For some reason, this became Rahm's all-time favorite cassette tape. I had neglected to warn my visiting friend of the music law and was upstairs when she foolishly chose another tape and pressed the "play" button. By the time I got downstairs, the little king was revving up into royal histrionics. When I refused to replace the unauthorized music with "The Singing Rabbis," the tantrum escalated into the kind of sobbing that resembles choking. I had to take Rahm outside and put his bare bottom in a snowdrift just to get him to breathe. My younger sons love this story.

As he left the toddler stage, Rahmiel grew back into his name. He became an unusually caring kid, a protective older brother, and the family peacemaker. As he grew up, I began to wise up. Loving one's child did not necessarily mean giving in to his every desire. This was the kind of love that the ancients knew must be reduced by ninety-nine and nine-tenth percent. If we don't purge ourselves of disproportionate, neurotic caring—if we raise our little darlings in a bubble of comfort, if we stay one step ahead of their every need; if we try to shield them from the pain of the world—we deprive them of learning important life lessons. I write from experience. I tried to do this. I learned that too much giving to children is not a gift. Rather, it's a taking away. It denies children the skills they will need for life outside of the bubble. All of my sons taught me this as they grew. Rahmiel—the angel of mercy—was the first. Today, Rahm is one of the more compassionate men I know. I'm still learning how to be a parent.

As the co-founder of Omega Institute, America's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality and creativity, Elizabeth Lesser has studied and worked with leading figures in the fields of healing and spiritual development for decades. A former midwife and mother of three grown sons, she is also the author of Broken Open and A Seeker's Guide.

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Excerpted from Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow © 2004 by Elizabeth Lesser. Reprinted by arrangement with the Random House Publishing Group.


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