“The conclusions you drew long ago in childhood are now part of the architecture of your brain. They can certainly be dismantled, but only by you”
A Coincidence? [Inbox / Issue 858]
I nodded along after reading a letter in your inbox regarding paying shadchanim for their effort even if the shidduch doesn’t work out. My daughter was in shidduchim for two and a half years. Then someone made me aware of the importance of compensating her shadchanim, which I promptly did.
A month later, she met her zivug!
I think not.
Gifting Overboard [To Be Honest / Issue 857]
In response to the well-written article Presenting Issue by Bassi Friedman, I’d like to present (pun intended) the following subject: gifts for chassan and kallah during the engagement period. When I got engaged some 50-plus years ago, I got a siddur from my chassan and was very happy. Today the gifts exchange is going overboard. Not only a very expensive diamond ring, but a pearl necklace, earrings, and now a new meshugas, an expensive designer bag. When will this stop? I know parents who went into heavy debt because of these “obligatory” presents.
Oh. I forgot the Tehillim.
The gifts for the chassan is the subject of another letter.
An Aunt in Michigan
A Kidney Donor Shares [Now, That’s Giving! / Issue 857]
I had the zechus of donating a kidney to my father in January of 2017, and I appreciated your article about the incredible people and their altruistic kidney donation journeys. I’d like to share the following with your readers:
Testing for kidney donation in the US doesn’t take months. I spent one day undergoing many evaluations and was cleared for surgery a couple of weeks later.
Renewal not only assisted me throughout every step of the testing process, they sent representatives to support me and my parents on the day of the surgery. Since I am a mother of eight kein ayin hara, Renewal also funded extra help for me and my family, such as cleaning help, dinners, and my stay at a convalescent home while I was recovering.
I’d recommend that anyone interested in kidney donation read Rabbi Ari Sytner’s book The Kidney Donor’s Journey: 100 Questions I Asked Before Donating My Kidney. It’s informative and easy to read. While donating one’s kidney is ultimately an act of emunah, this book has the ability to provide a feeling of calm and fellowship for those involved in this great mitzvah.
Wishing all of Klal Yisrael good health and a kesivah v’chasimah tovah.
Push Past Your Past [Family Connections / Issue 857]
The recent letter to and response from Sarah Chana Radcliffe about a woman who finds it hard to feel joy because of her difficult relationship with her mother left me thinking and excited about the direction therapy in our generation is heading. It seems that after decades of analyzing our childhoods — trying to link cause to effect — we’re now recognizing that regardless of our past, our present actions are a daily matter of choice.
Each neshamah descends into This World with the purpose of achieving its highest potential, not despite the imperfections of our upbringing, but in a sense, because of them. But we were trained to think that chronic emotional pain is a mistake, though no one in This World is exempt from Hashem’s plan of individual struggle.
Mrs. Radcliffe’s carefully chosen words are powerfully spot-on: “The conclusions you drew long ago in childhood are now part of the architecture of your brain. They can certainly be dismantled, but only by you.”
A friend who is a professional therapist once related to me a conversation she had with a young woman who sought help for anxiety and depression. The young woman told my friend the therapist that it’s really her mother who needs to come to therapy, because she’s mentally unbalanced, and it’s causing her great pain.
“Who’s suffering from this, you or your mother?” my friend asked.
“Me,” the young woman responded.
The therapist wisely concluded, “In that case, you are the one who requires therapy. In therapy, we address the issues, and since you’re the one struggling, you’re in the right place.”
Past suffering is undeniable.
There is nothing that cuts deeper than reflecting on our childhood hardships.
May we be zocheh to draw upon the pain of our past to empower us to strive to be the very best we can be!
Why Can’t You Do Both? [Family Reflections / Issue 855]
I have some feedback on Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s article about being able to tell a child no. As an educator, yet not a parent, I was bothered by the general theme of the article, and specifically by the following sentence: “Their casual disregard of the issue — yes, their invalidation of the child’s heartbreak — conveys the message....”
Personally, I don’t have a hard time saying no. I have a warm and effective discipline method. But why would I need to invalidate the child in order to say no? Why do we need to disregard someone else’s feelings or opinions for our thought or opinion to have value?
I find it super effective to validate and say no. Why can’t a parent acknowledge, name, make space for a child’s feelings (not squash and tell them it doesn’t belong), and lay down the rule?
We can’t always allow a child to have what they want, yet we can always allow them to want what they want.
Mrs. Radcliffe, I hope you understand that I don’t think saying no is a catastrophe. My students have heard no whenever necessary, yet they also know that even as they follow through with that, they’re allowed to feel — authentically!
Sarah Chana Radcliffe responds:
Let’s review the words from the article. They were a comment on a child’s hysteria that she was unable to have the toy her sibling was currently playing with. The point I was making was that it wasn’t necessary to procure that toy for the child (unless she was a pre-verbal toddler), and I stated:
“Imagine, however, that parents shrug their shoulders and instruct the unhappy seven-year-old to ‘go do something else.’ Their casual disregard of the issue — yes, their invalidation of the child’s heartbreak — conveys the message: This is not a catastrophe; you have other toys, life will go on even if you don’t play with that toy right now, and I completely expect that you’ll survive the frustration of the moment.”
In this example, I’m not asking parents to verbally invalidate their child’s hysterical response by saying something inappropriate like, “You needn’t get so upset about it.” Telling a child to not feel what she clearly does feel is dangerous and unhealthy on many levels.
What I am suggesting is that the parents don’t mirror the child’s hysteria back to her, but rather show by their own unruffled attitude — their calm, unemotional response to the problem — that the problem isn’t, in fact, a 10 out of 10 on the crisis scale.
This demonstration does indeed invalidate the child’s hysterical response to a minor frustration, but does so only by modeling. I go on to explain that parents demonstrate how their children should feel, by modeling their own emotional reactions to various life situations.
If parents explode because someone spilled their milk, they’re teaching by their example that spilled milk is a crisis. If they remain calm when something breaks, they model that broken objects aren’t a catastrophe. If the child gets hysterical because she accidentally broke something, the parents' calm response models a different attitude toward the situation, and in doing so, invalidates the child’s grief over the incident. In this particular case, invalidation is a positive thing, not a negative one.
Similarly, remaining calm in the face of the fact that a toy isn’t available (while there is a houseful of alternate toys available for playing with at the same moment), invalidates the crisis response of the youngster in a good way — and I stand by my belief that parents can help their children by modeling desirable, healthy and appropriate emotional reactions to life situations.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 860)
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