My daughter returned from seminary last year and has been in shidduchim for several months.
While she was in Eretz Yisroel she developed a close relationship with one of her teachers whom
she now considers a mentor. My husband and I are thrilled about the growth she experienced and
are happy she found a mentor she respects, but we’re also concerned. My daughter calls this
teacher for “approval” before we give a yes and checks in with her after every date, giving much
consideration to her feedback.
We feel that some of her direction has been misguided. While my daughter has beautiful middos
and aspirations, she also has very human needs and struggles we’re privy to that this mentor may
not be. We fear she’s being guided towards a lifestyle that she may want, but may not be able to
sustain. It seems this mentor is overstepping her role, but if we ever question her advice, we get
that patronizing “I guess this is what they warned us about in seminary” look. What’s our role here
as parents? Are we underestimating our daughter? Should we speak to the mentor directly? We
don’t want to tarnish her idealism, but we also want to set her up for realistic success.
Voice of Reality
Just check your parenting manual, the chapter entitled “balancing idealism with realism.” Oh
right…children don’t come with one. We hear so much about achieving the elusive balance
between children’s potential and their current reality, but have little direction about what that looks
like in real time. As our children enter shidduchim and the stakes grow higher, the need to find that
balance becomes ever greater. To further complicate your dilemma, it seems you’re not the only
voice speaking here. We have your thoughts, the input of the mentor and, last but not least, your
daughter’s emerging opinions.
The first thing to remember is that while you may not share common views, you all share a
common goal — finding your daughter a fine man who is a good fit for her. You might differ on
what makes him fine or what constitutes a good fit for her, but you all agree this is the goal.
As parents, you have the longitudinal view. You’ve seen your daughter at various stages and in
many situations. You have the video. Your daughter’s teacher has the indepth view. She’s seen
your daughter’s inner yearnings and her unfettered, best self. She has the snap shot.
You know what your daughter is; the teacher knows what your daughter can be.
Both those dimensions deserve serious consideration as shidduchim are considered. When your
daughter gives you the “you don’t understand” look I think the message behind the message is, “I
just discovered new layers of greatness within me this year and they excite me. Please don’t
dampen my enthusiasm for ruchnius with this thing you call ‘reality.’ It makes me feel you don’t
believe in me.” It sounds as though the teacher is mirroring the parts of your daughter that she
herself is most proud of; no wonder she wants to align herself with this woman.
Before you can introduce the element of reality (in your daughter’s mind that reads as “criticism”)
you must first also align yourself with the glowing version of herself that she wants to identify
with. She has to feel that you believe in her ability to live these ideals. When you stop fighting her
and create an accepting space for her to explore these issues herself, she’ll probably come to many
of the same conclusions you’re trying to present.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately there are adults in positions of power who, consciously or
unconsciously, feed off the influence they wield on their young charges. If you feel there’s a
controlling dynamic underlying this teacher’s connection to your daughter, you’ll need to intervene
more directly. If you suspect insidious intent, you need to point this out to your daughter with
specific examples. Do not try to forbid contact, as this will backfire.
I am assuming, however, that this isn’t the case, and that we’re just looking at differences of
opinion. “Join” with your daughter by embracing her growth and her desire to live an elevated life.
Verbally acknowledge whatever points her mentor makes that you agree with. Then ask non-
judgmental, openended questions about how your daughter would deal with certain situations and
how she’d reconcile certain life scenarios with her personality and needs.
Finally, remember that we’re just actors in the drama of life that Hashem directs. Some girls find
their bashert right after seminary, and marry someone with whom they create a certain type of
home. Others don’t find their bashert until later, after they may experience an internal hashkafic
shifts. They may create a different home than they would have fresh out of seminary. Neither is an
accident, nor is it something we can control. We can only be the best parents we can be.
So, do what you can to merge the three voices, create space for your daughter to come to her own
conclusions, listen to your parental instincts and, most importantly — let go and let Hashem lead
you and your daughter.