Tzirel: How can you take away our daughter’s one chance of hope?
Yehudis: My daughter has needs too. Why must your daughter come first?
Esti was late again. I couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, but it felt like the seventh time in the past couple of weeks.
I sighed and dialed the school office.
“Detention,” confirmed the secretary.
It hadn’t always been like this. Looking back, it had probably only started a few months earlier. Lateness to school, unexplained absences from class. And the unceasing detentions.
Maybe it was the remaining vestiges of flu that were making her act out, maybe the teacher wasn’t understanding enough, maybe it’s just a phase, we should give her more attention. But we always gave her lots of attention — Estie’s the oldest, and the only girl. And the phase lasted over summer vacation and into a new school year with a brand-new set of teachers. And the flu bug was a distant memory already.
Shlomo agreed with me that something was amiss. The only problem was, who would figure out what?
Estie came home scowling.
“Hi, sweetie. Everything okay?”
She gave me a miserable look. She wasn’t carrying a schoolbag, just wearing a thick winter jacket zippered till the top although it was pretty mild for October.
“Are you hungry? Come eat something.”
She opened her mouth and closed it again, turned around and then, suddenly, spun to face me.
“Why aren’t you asking what the detention was for this time?” Her tone was accusing.
I was caught off-guard; I’d been avoiding the lateness issue, scared to trigger anything. Apparently, avoidance triggers just as badly.
“I— do you want to tell me?”
A minute later, I heard the bedroom door slam.
Estie seemed to spend most of her time there. After school, evenings, most of Shabbos. Sometimes, she slept through the meal on Shabbos day, which really annoyed Shlomo.
“Sleeping? At 12:30 p.m.? I really don’t think it’s necessary,” he said to me one week. “You tried to wake her?”
“I went in twice. I don’t think we should push her.”
We were talking in the kitchen, keeping our voices down so the boys wouldn’t hear. The table was set, eight perfectly folded napkins and the challos already out. Time was ticking on, but Estie was oblivious.
“I’m going to tell her to come down.”
Estie made an appearance a few minutes later, wearing some designer hoodie and the blackest scowl I’d seen all week. She sat next to me, her usual place, but didn’t say anything. She didn’t touch her food, either, and sometime around main course, she disappeared upstairs again.
Unreachable. That’s what my daughter had become.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 749)