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Dear Mechuteneste

Anonymous

Why do you express such frequent and forceful opinions?

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

 

 

D

ear Mechuteneste,

What nachas we shared as we married off our children! What a brachah it is when two young adults, who share ideals and goals, discover each other and join together to build a Torah home! 

While you and I had some differences along the way, we worked them out, and with Hashem’s help we made a beautiful wedding. Our kids were and are so happy. They read marriage books, seek guidance from their rabbanim and teachers, and are eager to start their new life on a strong foundation. And they’re doing such a good job. They communicate well, support each other, and are respectful of each other’s needs. 

They’re mostly on the same page, and when they’re not, well, they’re learning how to work it out as a couple. And although we’re both pitching in to help them financially, they’re capable of figuring things out. Of course they’ll make mistakes along the way. Don’t we all?

I know, as you do, that marrying off a child is an enormous simchah. But it’s also a loss of sorts. Our children must leave us and make each other their priority. For as we both know, shalom bayis is the foundation of a healthy, happy, functional Torah home. 

I also know that you have opinions on how things should be done, on how shidduchim work these days, on support, money, work, travel, and standards of living. We all do. 

What I don’t know is why you voice your opinions so forcefully and so frequently to your child, and often to mine. It baffles me why you cannot see that your opinions (which change frequently, so you make sure your child is updated) cause strife, confusion, and conflict between our children. This is especially dangerous when they’re still navigating their new relationship with each other.

What’s even more dangerous is saying negative, critical, and judgmental things about my child to yours, placing your child in the position of having to choose loyalties between you or their spouse. They are already at odds over this and arguing where they otherwise would not be. I understand that they’ll have differences — all marriages do — but why must you add to those? Do you not see the impact? 

Your child loves you and wants to remain close with you. Your constant directives put your child and mine in a difficult spot. It’s not always possible for them to make sure they spend equal time in both our homes, or otherwise do exactly what you think they should do.

When you strongly suggest that they should or shouldn’t take a certain trip, or up or downgrade a certain item, or use or not use specific medical providers, it weighs heavily on their newly developing sense of identity as a couple. They must struggle with their wish to be independent, while avoiding discord in their marriage, and also pleasing the in-laws. This causes enormous strain. 

You are generous and helpful, for which I’m deeply grateful. Perhaps you think you’re not overly involved or domineering. Perhaps you want to protect them, thinking they’ll suffer if they don’t heed your words. But are you aware that many marriages crack under the strain of a difficult (even if well-meaning) mother or mother-in-law? 

Being the erliche kids that they are, they’re seeking hadrachah from their rav. Although they’re refined and reserved, we can already sense that their new marriage is straining under the weight of your constant “help” and “concern,” and your anger if they don’t follow your advice.

Perhaps you’re grappling with your own anxiety and life transitions. Maybe you feel strongly grounded in your sense of right and wrong. But please be careful with our new couple. Please don’t be blind as to how you are actually impacting them. 

I hope you’ll always be as generous and interested in their wellbeing as you are now. But I also hope you’ll trust them to manage just fine on their own. 

I daven we should continue to see nachas from them.

Sincerely,

Your Mechuteneste

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 629)

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