In a few days it will be Mothers Day. Of course,we should not need a special day in the year to honor our mothers — every day should be "Mothers Day". The idea that we should respect and honor our mothers each and every day is part of the Ten Commandments. Caring for and honoring our parents should be part of our daily lives. The Talmud takes up the question of exactly how one should treat one's parents. The story is told of Rabbi Tarfon, who lived in the period just following the destruction of the Second Temple. Whenever his mother wished to get into her bed, Rabbi Tarfon would get on his hands and knees and allow his mother to step onto his back to climb into bed. Whenever she wished to get out of bed, he would get on his hands and knees and let her use his back as a step down. Rabbi Tarfon thought he was being a pretty amazing son, and he told his colleagues at the House of Study the exemplary way he treated his mother. Some of them were not impressed. "You have not yet reached the honor due her," they said. "Has she thrown her money into the sea without your getting angry at her?" Others said to him, "If you had done a thousand times more for her, you still would not have done half the honor due her that the Torah prescribes."
Clearly the Talmud is demanding very high standards for achieving the mitzvah of honoring one's mother. Most of us think if we give flowers, breakfast in bed and a nice card on Mothers Day we are doing pretty well! In fact, Maimonides warns parents not to be overly demanding of their children in this respect. "Although children are commanded to go the above mentioned lengths," writes Maimonides, "the parent is forbidden to impose too heavy a yoke upon them, to be too exacting with them in matters pertaining to his honor, lest he cause them to stumble. The parent should forgive them and shut his eyes; for a parent has the right to forego the honor due him."
It comes,then, to a matter of balance. Children have the duty to be respectful to their parents and honor them each and every day. Parents, in turn, are responsible not to place unreasonable expectations and demands on their children. Should they not feel properly honored, parents should be forgiving and understanding of their children. The most important thing is to strive for harmonious relations between parent and child. This takes an effort from both sides of the relationship.