Oy Vey! Have I Got a Problem

Oy Vey! Have I Got a Problem

Got a problem? Email Rachel Stein at oyvey@atljewishtimes.com, describing your problem in 250 words or less.

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Dear Rachel,

My daughter, Shira, is a well-behaved, good student. So, when I was summoned to bring her home from school one day because of an infraction, I was understandably upset and concerned. Shira’s cheeks were tear-streaked, and she jumped up the second I came into the office.

“Let’s go,” she whispered urgently.

“I was told to wait for the principal,” I explained and watched her face crumble.

We waited five interminable minutes that morphed into 10. Considering that I had already spoken at length to the principal on the phone about the issue – during work, mind you – before coming to school, I finally put my foot down.

“We’ve waited and waited,” I told the secretary. “I have to go now. Plus, I already spoke with the principal.”

“Well, in that case,” she agreed, “Just go. I’ll give her the message.”

“Thanks,” I said tersely, striding through the door with Shira in tow.

After Shira ate, she filled me in on what happened. Mr. Grink was a new teacher, and the girls disliked him intensely. Apparently, the whole class had finished their work, and Mr. Grink told them to do “whatever you want.” As kids will, they took his injunction a little too far. Some even ran around the room; complete chaos reigned. A frustrated Mr. Grink zoomed in on Shira and her best friend, Leah, and turned them into scapegoats, suspending them for the rest of the day. Resulting from their suspension, they wound up missing a special class trip that they had been looking forward to for a whole month!

And now for my dilemma. If an adult makes a mistake involving your child, how do you encourage respect for authority while acknowledging to your child that you feel she was mistreated?



Dear Disillusioned,

From your description, it seems to me the school mishandled the situation. If I were in charge, I hope I would have taken away recess from the entire class; that seems justified after hearing what took place. They took recess during class, so they already used up their free time. An extra assignment would be another option. But to single out two girls when everyone was guilty isn’t appropriate. Why should only they miss out on a special trip? So, the school goofed. Now what? Your question is significant, especially in our days when respect and morality have disintegrated.

Can you tell Shira that even though you feel the consequence was too harsh, she accepted it and took it in stride, and you’re proud of her for being strong enough to handle it in such a mature fashion?

Now, if she’s in a place where you can have a calm give and take, I think it’s appropriate to call her out on her behavior; she certainly shouldn’t think you approve of that type of conduct. Even though everyone was doing it, that doesn’t make it right. And if she were my daughter, I’d like her to write Mr. Grink a sincere apology note.

I discussed this dilemma with a friend just to get another viewpoint, and she recounted a story that happened with her grandfather.

“When I was growing up, we used to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s every Sunday and eat watermelon on long, hot summer days. Grandpa believed the pulp should be sucked and spit out, not eaten. So, while we were at their house, that’s what we did out of respect for Grandpa – even though it was ridiculous! And at home, we enjoyed spitting out the seeds and swallowing the watermelon pulp.”

And then, she added, “So what if Shira and Leah missed the trip? Today’s kids are so coddled; they fall apart anytime something doesn’t go their way. Let them learn a lesson and grow stronger from it. Life doesn’t always go the way you want, and you just have to deal.”

What a healthy perspective! In retrospect, it probably was healthy for Shira and Leah to be suspended, and hopefully it built up some of their resilience muscles.

The upshot? Respect for our elders is paramount. Without that foundation, how can we pass on information, advice, tradition, or anything worthwhile to the next generation?

“Yes, Shira, adults aren’t perfect; sometimes they make mistakes,” I would say. “Yet, it is our job to respect and honor them; they’ve lived longer and have more wisdom culled through life experience. That’s what our Torah mandates, and the Torah never steers us wrong.”

I hope this helps.

Best wishes, Rachel

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