Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone who cared enough to comment on my previous post - even you DovBear - whether your comment was a helpful suggestion, observation or even a criticism.
I spoke with my wife last night and showed her my previous post, along with everyone's comments. I was relieved to find out that she, too, had been bothered by our treatment of our new neighbors. We had a long talk about these matters - including the halachic standards that we want to maintain for our children. It's a tough balancing act - after all, you can't shield your child from everything. They go to school, and have classmates that may influence them; and they go to camp where other campers and counselors can influence them. In these places, we, as parents can "shield" our children even less. But the concept of the feelings that I felt truly bothered me.
For a long time, I've always considered the following question: If you had a choice between your children being mentschen or being Shomrei Torah U'Mitzvos, which would you choose? My answer, of course, is "why can't I have both?" And, truth to tell, there really isn't any reason why you can't strive to have both - there are plenty of people in the world who are STU'M and are decent, kind, caring human beings. But, of course, that doesn't *really* answer the question - what if you *had* to choose between one and the other - which one is it?
I have always tried to put that question out of my mind, yet, for years, every now and again, it has always tugged away at the corner of my brain, reminding me that it's still there and that I still haven't fed it the answer it craves. I have always been a strong believer (I know you wouldn't think it from my last post, but it's true) in stressing bein adam la'chaveiro with my children more than bein adam la'makom; simply because that's always been the focus in my life. Not that I ignore the latter, of course - I keep Shabbos, I keep kashrus, etc. But my first thought when encountering a situation is not usually "what will God think" but "will so-and-so be bothered by it." Sometimes, it can't be helped and BALM comes first, but in most cases, I make a concious effort to try to put BALC first.
To me, I suppose, they are both essential. It's like asking which eye you'd like to lose - you don't really want to even think about it - let alone sit and try to rationally come up with the answer. I certainly don't want my children to grow up to be rotten human beings who keep the Mitzvos. Equally so, however, I don't want them to grow up abandoning the Mitzvos either, even if they turn out to be fine, upstanding human beings (don't get me wrong - I'd take pride in that anyway!). So, I leave the question unresolved and every now and again it continues to stalk at the corners of my mind.
So, where does that leave me? There is an old saying that the strongest influences in a person's life are his/her parents. As much as youngster would like to deny it, they take their attitudes in life and their lessons in dealing with other people from us, their parents. Perhaps that's why children of child abusers are more likely to become child abusers themselves. Children's behaviors (when they grow up) become modeled on their parents' behaviors. I see it happening with myself - I see myself slowly developing my parent's attitudes and sensibilities in life. I find myself dealing with my children as my parents deal with me. Every day I better understand what my parents went through in raising me because I am internalizing their lessons, attitudes and outlooks on life.
The vast majority of my family is not frum. Except for my mother, sister (and her family) and one branch on my father's side, no one in my family (including my father) is frum. And yet, my children know their (non-frum, and in some cases non-Jewish) cousins and thier grandfather and his wife (my parents are divorced). They see and deal with them and know that there are certain things that they may do that are unacceptable for them. They understand, for example, that when they go to a cousin's Bat Mitzvah and there is mixed dancing there that they cannot participate. They know that they have to ask questions before they can eat at certain places. Perhaps my kids aren't as fragile as I had thought them to be - after all, I've seen with my own eyes that they can associate with others outside their "frumness level" (for lack of a better term) and yet still maintain standards that I and my wife require of them.
In any event, my wife and I both decided that we want to make it up to them. Hopefully, they don't read this blog. We already have plans for this coming Shabbos, but I think we're going to extend an invitation for the next one.