Moderated by Rachel Stein | firstname.lastname@example.org
Shared Spirit printed a dilemma a while back that caused me no small amount of discomfiture. It concerned a parent wading neck-high in pain while watching his child chart a new path and grow in his religious leanings.
How my insides clenched as I chewed and swallowed line after line, trying to muster empathy for this father’s angst. Yet sometimes it is difficult to feel compassion when your own issues loom so much larger and darker. And I wonder, devoted dad of a potential religious fanatic, if you would have thanked G-d for your “problem” if you had any awareness of the issues some of your friends and neighbors deal with on a daily basis.
Maybe you should count your blessings.
I am a Jewish woman running an Orthodox home. Before our divorce, my husband and I devoted our lives to ensuring that our children received top-notch Jewish educations, hoping and praying to set them up on this most meaningful life path.
After our divide, which was peaceful and respectful, we have continued to be consistent in teaching our three children vital Jewish values. We have maintained a peaceful working relationship for the benefit of the children and for ourselves. Yet, in spite of our best efforts, something went awry.
Our daughter, who is turning 18 next month, has rejected everything. Is it anger about the divorce? Perhaps. Teenage rebellion? Another possibility. The lure of the streets glittering more enticingly than a sheltered life of rules and regulations? Sure. If this were a multiple-choice question, the correct answer would probably be D, all of the above.
And now I grapple with a heart-wrenching question that no parent should have to face. Do I allow Shira to continue living in my home?
I am scared for my other children. Shira smokes marijuana and hangs around with unsavory people. Her lights turn on and off on Shabbos and holidays, and she makes no pretense of any semblance of observance. How much do I worry about her vs. the effect she may have on my two innocent and compliant children?
I’m sure you’re wondering why she can’t live with her father. He has remarried and is doing his best to remain a devoted father to our children while being a caring stepfather to his new children. And our Shira would wreak havoc with that picture.
Does one throw a child out of her home? Would I ever get a night’s sleep again?
At this point in time, Shira is relatively polite and pleasant, if you can ignore the occasional expletive that seems to just gush out in her natural conversation like a leaky faucet. Mind you, that form of expression is strictly forbidden in our home. So that, too, is an affront, and I shudder for my girls to be exposed to this language.
But she has come a long way. Spinning back the wheels of time, I recall the years when she exploded regularly, and at the time I wished she had been older so I could have expelled her then.
With the help of therapy and maturation, she eventually achieved a balance. Other than her inappropriate lifestyle choices and occasional verbal slips, she’s an OK person to have around. She even kills roaches, a big plus in Atlanta, especially since we don’t have an able-bodied guy handy.
Is it possible to raise two other sweet daughters in the Torah way with Shira’s shadow hovering nearby? Or is this a time when I have to look at the bigger picture, casting aside the flesh of my flesh in regard for the innocent and yet unaffected others?
Judaism is everything to me. If my other daughters follow their older sister’s lead, I can’t imagine wanting to wake up in the morning. This is my mission and my purpose in life: to raise a family that is steadfastly loyal to G-d and His Torah. And if that mission is gone, of what value am I?
Shared Spirit is a column in which people share personal problems, hoping to receive good, practical advice from readers.