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Family First Inbox: Issue 797

"Mommy, I can’t be perfect. You’ve placed me on a pedestal that I only ever dream of reaching"

My Son’s Acne Experience [Making It Clear / Issue 796]

Thank you for publishing such an incredibly detailed and helpful first-hand account of an acne sufferer. I’m sure the author’s experience and research will help many others.

I’d like to toss in my son’s experience. (Yes, my son had the worst case of acne I have ever seen.) I was wringing my hands over his denial of its severity (his friends couldn’t care less and we were too afraid to pressure him). However, his big sisters thankfully pushed him into finding a specialist to treat this disfiguring condition.

As a result, he found the dermatology practice of Dr. Bobby Bulka in Manhattan. Dr. Bulka personally oversaw the treatment (he seemed to have a soft spot for this mortified yeshivah bochur) and set my son on a years-long course of Accutane.

What wasn’t mentioned in the article were two very significant effects of this miracle drug. The first is that the monthly blood tests apply to men as well... and my son couldn’t touch a drop of alcohol for the years he was taking it. Apparently, the interaction between alcohol and Accutane is extremely dangerous to the liver, and the blood tests were to check liver function. So it was grape juice for Kiddush and the Sedorim, soda at barbecues and simchahs, and he was always the designated driver.

My son was blessed with thick, curly hair. That thinned out to the point that he was bald at 22. For him, it was a mild issue, as it was covered by his hat and yarmulke. I would caution young women to be aware of this possibility, although the author doesn’t mention it. Ironically, his beard is thick.

Today, his forehead and cheeks are perfectly clear — no scarring at all. If not for Dr. Bulka and his team, I dread to think of the emotional as well as physical damage this condition would have caused. His baldness was a small price to pay for the result.

A Grateful Mother

Mommy, I Can’t Be Perfect [On the Shoulders of Giants / Issue 795]

Dear Mommy,

After reading an article about the children of baalei teshuvah, I wanted to write to you about my experience as your daughter.

You never dreamed, in your wildest imagination, that your FFB Bais Yaakov daughter, raised with Torah values and hashkafos, with the Jewish education that you could have only dreamed of, would ever go through the struggles that you’d gone through as a teenager. I mean, you were raised on a different planet, one that only fellow baalei teshuvah can understand. You, my strong mother, realized the emptiness of it all and went to look for more. When you were my age, you were making life-altering decisions, choices that would uproot you from the only world you’d ever known. Now you have built a true Torah home, and are proudly raising FFB children into the cusp of adulthood.

I’ve heard it many times. I’ve heard your story being retold in the looks that you’ve given me when I disappoint you, when I taint the image in your mind of the perfect Bais Yaakov Girl. That girl has no taavahs for anything other than doing what’s expected of her. She davens with complete kavanah, spends her spare time learning, and chooses friends who only lift her up and inspire her. She is super careful to never miss a Minchah, always bentshes from a bentsher, and has her weekly machsom l’fi organized in advance. She smiles when her siblings are being annoying, says gam zu l’tovah when she stubs her toe, and is grateful for everything she has, even her closet at the start of the new season.

In your mind, I should be all that and more.

But I can’t be, Mommy. I can’t live up to your unrealistic expectations all the time. I try, believe me, I try. To make you proud. To give you nachas. To let you see the times when I do make the right choice.

Sometimes I do hear the pride in your voice, when you tell me that I’m the fruit of all you worked for. But often, I see the disappointment in your eyes when I fail, when I make the wrong choice. I know you don’t mean to hurt me, but each time I see that look, I know I’ve let you down.

Every child wants to make their parents proud. But Mommy, I can’t be perfect. You’ve placed me on a pedestal that I only ever dream of reaching. I’m growing up in a different time, place, and yes, a different planet than you did. My choices may not be as life-changing or as drastic as yours were, but each time I do decide to do the right thing, I am changing. I am growing. I am constructing my own path, paving it with the choices I make, based on the Torah hashkafos that you have instilled in me.

My failures are only stepping stones, and without them, I wouldn’t have a complete path. Mommy, I want to make you proud. Please, look past my failures and recognize my victories — because they are there, too.

Your Ever-Growing FFB Daughter

Keep Us in the Loop [On the Shoulders of Giants / Issue 795]

I wanted to thank you for the relatable article about children whose parents are baalei teshuvah. As a daughter of BT parents, I agree with everything Chana Roberts wrote that she would tell the community. She says that it “would be really nice if someone in the community would just walk us through.” Even for the seemingly obvious aspects of Jewish life that may come naturally to children of FFB parents, it would be nice to be told what’s expected. Something as trivial as noticing what styles are “in” may not be part of our upbringing and consequently, we, children of BT parents, may feel lost when it comes to smachot. Being informed before the event will definitely help us integrate into the community.

Name Withheld

Neurodiverse, but Not “Different” [To Be Honest: All Our Children / Issue 795]

I’m writing in response to the recent conversations about children with hidden disabilities. I’d like to thank you for actually bringing this up. It’s not something that gets talked about as often as it should, and I’m glad you’re raising awareness. However, there is one thing bothering me. I doubt it’s on purpose, but I feel like the tone of all your recent articles about children with hidden disabilities has implied that these children are incapable of being normal, that all of them cause untold amounts of problems for their families and can barely go out in public. That may be true for some of these children, but I’m living proof it’s not always true.

I’m a teenager with anxiety, OCD and DCD/dyspraxia. And if you saw me on the street, you’d never know. My intelligence isn’t affected (it’s actually above average), I have an amazing circle of friends, and I’ve always been in a mainstream school and will be going to a mainstream seminary. Only my family and close friends know about my diagnoses, and it doesn’t make a difference to them. And yes, it’s hard to live with these “hidden disabilities,” but do I consider myself disabled? Do I consider myself a lesser part of society? No!

I’m not saying that’s what you were implying, but as one of those children who you’re writing about, that’s how I felt. I think it’s important for your readers to be aware that not all neurodiverse people behave in a manner that marks them as clearly different — in fact, many of us lead totally normal lives. (Or, if we are nuts, it’s most certainly not because of our diagnoses :).)


They Belong with Us [To Be Honest: All Our Children / Issue 795]

The conversation about inclusion for all children cannot be had without first acknowledging how far we’ve already come. Much has been done to open yeshivahs’ doors to atypical students and accommodate them.

And yet, Jewish education is absolutely at a turning point. We must face the fact that so many of our own don’t fit in. Since our schools aren’t equipped to deal with the myriad adaptations that come along with students who are not the norm, many of our own are suffering — either within our system, where their needs can’t be addressed and so they’re failing academically, socially and emotionally; or they’re attending non-Jewish public or specialized schools.

We can’t continue to pretend it isn’t happening. What can be done? There is no easy answer. It takes deep understanding of each individual child and knowledge of their unique diagnosis (sometimes numerous unique diagnoses) in order to properly adapt and accommodate for them. Teacher training is crucial.  The mainstream children cannot suffer or fall behind due to their non-typical classmate.

The biggest leap that needs to be taken right now is the shift in perspective toward our atypical student population, visible and invisible disabilities alike. They are ours and belong with us.  They deserve to be successful. While it will be a tremendous undertaking for our school system, the time is ripe for communal awareness of this issue. With this awareness will hopefully come a shift in perspective across the board — from parent bodies, school administrators, principals, school boards, rebbeim, teachers, and the students themselves — that these children are ours and they belong with us.

Rochel Levy

Woodmere, NY

Finding Relief [Inbox / Issue 794]

I was sorry to see that a letter writer felt that my article minimized the horrors of hyperemesis gravidarum. You’re right, HG is an awful, horrendous, and potentially life-threatening disease. I agree with you that the inbox letter suggesting a whole-foods based diet was insensitive and unhelpful, and I also agree with you that many of us have “tried it all,” and that there is no simple answer.

That being said, I would like to clarify some details about the protocol described again. As I noted in the original article, it will not “cure” most people — but while there may be some women who find no relief with it, the majority of women who have (the thankfully more common) mild-to-moderate HG will find significant relief using my protocol.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen time and again that very often, even hospitalized women with severe HG are just not treated aggressively enough. They and their physicians often do not know of all the possible meds, avenues, med-combos, and dosage changes that can still make a difference.

I suggest that every woman with HG study HER’s treatment algorithm and treatment protocol. The outline that was printed in the article is just a very, very basic outline; the protocol is much more detailed and extensive. There are different medications, forms of the meds, different dosages, and tricks and trips to help them work better. Adding a previously unused medication at the correct dosage can make a difference. And in HG, any difference is worth a lot — there’s a difference between dying and suffering.

Yes, many women with HG will still suffer; unfortunately, we don’t know how to take away HG. But — as I’ve seen after guiding hundreds of women — using these protocols can help them to suffer less.

Wishing all women with HG only health and strength,

Tali Edelstein

Support for Singles [Inbox / Issue 789]

I was stunned to see an inbox letter questioning why Family First would print articles about how painful it is to be single. That letter tore right through me and made me cry, more than the original articles. I don’t even have words to express the shock, hurt and pain that this caused.

As said older single, struggling daily, the pain is too deep and too painful for anyone to describe, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I’ve just survived through a Yom Tov that made me feel I’d just been through a war zone — that’s how intense and painful it was. Yom Tov highlights out status and triggers the pain.

These articles provide the tiniest bit of support and comfort for those struggling with the knowledge that it isn’t just me who currently finds this nisayon too hard to handle; that silent understanding of those in mutual pain. This is why the articles are written. To help me and those like me. Please keep them coming to give us support.

The letter writer felt that these articles might frighten singles, or make them worry that they’ll be in it for the long haul. I struggle to understand this train of thought. Couldn't every article be a trigger? What about pieces about infertility, OTD children, divorce, medical sagas… would you say that half of Family First should never be printed?

And why does reading these articles make you feel you’ll be in for a long haul? Hashem has a plan for everyone — just because some people have been single for a long time, doesn’t mean you will. And for those of us who are on this journey and hurting, these articles don’t remind us of the pain; it’s there with us every day. We’re just facing reality and not living in denial of the pain. We can and will build lives for ourselves with the pain, without denying its existence.

I would like to open a support group for any older singles (preferably 30-plus) who would like connection and understanding from others in the same situation. Please email oldersinglesgroup@gmail.com to join.

Name Withheld


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 797)

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