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FF Inbox: Issue 898

“This is a two-sided issue. Parents need to let go, and children need to become independent”

Sounds Like Codependency [The First Year / Issue 897]

I found your panel discussion on parental assistance during shanah rishonah quite intriguing. As someone who got married and didn’t have the benefit of living near family (and still don’t), I’m very much opposed to the idea of a parent being that involved in their married children’s lives. I believe it borders on codependency.

In my humble opinion, if one is old enough to establish a home, one is old enough to make Shabbos and weeknight dinners.

The first year of marriage is a very pivotal one in which a husband and wife get to know each other and set the tone for the rest of their lives. If it starts off relying on parents for basic needs such as Shabbos meals, what does that say for how the rest of their marriage will evolve?

Parents won’t always be there to help you in a bind. It’s a luxury if they can, but shouldn’t be the standard. Spending the occasional Shabbos meal with family is something that should be done as long as it doesn’t impede the growth of the marital relationship.

Part of being an adult and being married is learning how to achieve and maintain a work-life balance. Parents who are always stepping in for their children, not just when they get married, but even from childhood, are doing their children a disservice. They’re not encouraging them to leave the nest and spread their wings.

This is a two-sided issue. Parents need to let go, and children need to become independent.

E.L. Rothman

Far Rockaway, NY


Parents Have a Role [The First Year / Issue 897]

I’d like to add my two cents to this discussion.

First, newlyweds were clumped into a stereotypical box titled “shanah rishonah bubble.” No one mentioned anything about different strokes for different folks. A more anxious and intense child, for example, might need more hand-holding whereas a more independent daughter may have no problem eating at home each and every meal always and forever.

Second, parents are their children’s first responders, whether they like it or not (especially if you’ve had a warm and supportive relationship until this point). So if a newly married child approaches you with an issue and you shut them down with boundaries, you’ve just given them their hundred and first problem. You’re entitled to say, “I’m not sure, this is above my pay grade, try so and so,” but you still have to give them that secure feeling that someone’s got their back. Giving the child the feeling that, “You can approach me about any problem up until point x,” can really send them whitewater rafting without a life jacket. Speaking from experience, sometimes your parents are the only people you know you can trust.

Raizy’s tip to give your child the phone numbers of four professionals you trust was a great option, but only because it came from a place of, “I’m here for you, but if you want to protect your own privacy, I’ll tell you whom I trust.”

Third, there was a lot of resentment around hosting supper and Shabbos meals. I was surprised that none of the contributors seemed to remember what shanah rishonah was like. Many kallahs are still building themselves up in whatever job they have, even if it’s not their first year. And if they’re in school, that can have some crazy intense moments, too. Even if a daughter helped out “so much” and juggled all of the housework when her mother gave birth… at the end of the day, it still wasn’t her responsibility. Keeping house — your own house — for the very first time can be super overwhelming for the most talented of women. Throw making a full Shabbos into the mix (no store-bought anything, still trying to impress the new hubby!) can be a full-on “crisis.” Being able to fall back on parents can be a major relief.

However, no one said you can’t say, “I’d love to host you, but we’re doing cholent leftovers tonight, okay? You’re absolutely invited to partake!” Or, “Tonight’s not a good option, but take my credit card and get some takeout up to xxx dollars, okay?”



A Way to Justify Evil [War Diaries / Issue 896]

I really enjoyed Ester Zirkind’s War Diaries, in which she describes how she stood up in front of her college classmates and declared that unlike most of the participants in Stanley Milgram’s infamous study — who obeyed instructions to “administer” increasingly “painful” electric shocks to actors in an experiment designed to show the terrible things even normal people will do when told to — she would never have followed orders like that. After her declaration, her professor said the only other person who’d ever declared that in his 30-year teaching career was also a frum Jew, leading Ester to realize just how proud she is to be a Torah-observant Jew.

I wanted to say though, that when I heard about this experiment when I was in college, I never thought about how I’d perform in such a situation; I just dismissed this study as irrelevant. I see the entire idea of trying to understand why people do evil as outrageous. All this experiment did was give a people a way to justify the evil that has been committed against our grandparents during the Holocaust.

R. L.


The Chosen Nation [War Diaries / Issue 896]

Thank you so very much for keeping up the War Diaries. As time goes on the intensity of feeling diminishes, but the situation is no less severe. All the articles are amazing and this one, about Ester’s reaction to hearing about the infamous Stanley Milgram experiment, was even more so. It brought to mind the story of the Klausenberger Rebbe ztz”l, who while being beaten was asked, “Do you still think you are the Chosen Nation?” And he answered, “Of course, you are the one doing the beating and I am the one receiving it.”

Toby Brecher



I Understand [Life in the Waiting Room / Issue 896]

It’s always cathartic and validating when someone else describes a secret pain that one harbors, and that’s how I felt when I read this first-person account about a woman experiencing secondary infertility. I, too, suffer from secondary infertility, but in my own head I call it “sixthly infertility.” I have five beautiful children who were all born with the help of invasive treatments. I’m older now and past my childbearing years so I (maybe) can offer some additional perspectives.

First, gratitude. I’m very lucky and I know it and I’m thankful to Hashem daily. True, my house and life weren’t as much of a balagan as someone with a larger family, but it was busy and I did have children’s laughter sparkling in my home. With the same intensity that I davened for these children throughout the years, I strive daily to thank Hashem for them. Focusing on what I have makes the pain of not having more easier to bear.

Second, because Hashem gave me less responsibilities at home and more free time, I strove to do something productive with that time. I currently run a community gemach and it’s helpful to have something else to focus on and fill my time productively.

Third, grandchildren. With Hashem’s help, they’ll come and you’ll cherish them with extra intensity. It’s a beautiful thing to have babies and children back in one’s life.

May we all see the fulfillment of the pasuk, “Eim habanim semeichah.”

A Mommy Who Understands


Count Your Blessings [Life in the Waiting Room / Issue 896]

After reading this story, I felt the need to respond. I know the pain far too well. The hurtful comments, the awkward questions, the constant longing. You wrote about the “measure of pain in being a step behind your peers.” I can definitely relate to that.

Let me introduce myself. Like you, I got married young with dreams of building a large family. Dreams of little fingers and toes, of giggles and tears, and everything else that goes into raising a frum family. It’s been eight years now, and we’re still waiting....

There’s a lot of pain in the world of infertility, especially in our society where everything seems to revolve around the kids. But the point of this letter isn’t to dwell and harp on the pain. I can, if I want to. But I know that right now, this is the life Hashem chose for me, so why wallow in self-pity? It’s not easy, but I try to focus on all the things I do have. Although kids aren’t on the list right now, there’s so much in my life that I’m grateful for. My wonderful husband, our loving marriage, the beautiful home that we live in, my fulfilling job. I’m thankful for our physical and mental health, for our ability to connect to Hashem in ways that many others can’t with their hectic schedules and myriad responsibilities. I’m grateful that we have parents, in-laws, and siblings who love us and support us in our journey. I can continue, but you get the point.

Please, stop comparing yourself to everyone else around you. I get it, we’re human. I catch myself doing the same sometimes. But that’s not what it’s all about. Life is not a race to see who can buy the biggest van, or who can make a bar mitzvah first. If it was, I’d have lost long ago. Life is about taking the circumstances that Hashem has given you and making the best possible you out of it. There’s so much to be gained out of challenges like yours. Look at your life! Grow from the experiences Hashem has given you and thank Him for the gifts He has granted you! Four beautiful, healthy children! Hug them! Talk to them! Play with them! Love them! And never stop thanking Hashem for them!

Throughout my journey I’ve met many courageous women, married for longer than you (12 years, 15 years, over 20 years), who have never held a child of their own. If you must compare yourself to others, think about all those amazing women and be grateful for the blessings in your life.

Still Waiting for One, But Thankful for the Blessings in My Life


Advice from an Adult [The Super-Sized, Uber-Savvy, Mega-Detailed Guide to Making a Bar Mitzvah / Issue 895]

I greatly appreciated this article about the details involved in making a bar mitzvah. Tova and Kayla did a superb job covering so many relevant details. If I may, I’d like to add a few more pointers to further enhance the bar mitzvah celebration.

May I suggest that we focus properly. Actually, we’re not making a bar mitzvah. Rather, we’re celebrating the fact that this young man is becoming a bar mitzvah, and that’s huge! No matter how the event evolves, your son will still become of age, responsible for learning Torah and performing mitzvos. During the difficult Covid era, not too long ago, social distancing helped many families keep the simchah in proper perspective. It’s not about the matching tablecloths, your new sheitel and wardrobe, or the elegant setting. Not at all.

For many mothers, or grandmothers, creating the tefillin bag may be almost as monumental and super meaningful. They stitch these projects with joy, imbuing each stitch with the prayers, hopes, and dreams of the Yiddishe Mamma. This artistic endeavor definitely enhances the simchah for many.

Leining and reciting one’s pshetel in front of a crowd can be intimidating. I’d advise our young men to take several deep breaths before starting. Look out into the audience and find several friendly faces. Make eye contact with loved ones and perhaps even smile at them before starting.

Before the festivities begin, we can surely express our faith in our young men, anticipating that they will do well. Our stated confidence in their skills will build them up, give them stature, and enable them to stand up in front with equanimity.

We should impress upon them that previously, they needed us. Now, we need them! We need them to be part of the minyan, to be part of a mezuman. This is an awesome privilege, and also an enormous responsibility.

When it comes to music, your adult guests will bless you if you can manage to keep the volume of the music at a safe level. May I remind you that hearing loss is permanent and progressive. Our young ones may not know better; they’re oblivious to the harm that excessively loud music will do to their hearing. We, as adults, definitely know better and should do our utmost to keep the music volume at a comfortable, safe level.

May we all be zocheh to raise our children and grandchildren to Torah, chuppah, and maasim tovim, in the best of health, b’ezras Hashem Yisbarach.

Miriam Liebermann


There’s Always a Choice [Inbox / Issue 895]

An inbox letter entitled, “If Only It Was That Easy,” contained a critical point I want to address. The letter writer was responding to another letter, which said that we need to acknowledge the role of free choice in how traumatized we are by our experiences. The letter writer attacked this idea, stating, “I was horrified at the callousness... that even if we have high school trauma, we still have free choice as to whether or not we’re triggered by it. If only it was so easy to shake away trauma.... Obviously, the letter writer had minor trauma which she can easily knock away seven years after high school.”

This statement makes an assumption that if someone recovered from her mental health struggles, then her experience was minor. This is an unfortunate trap that keeps many people stuck. They reason that if they get better, then the trauma wasn’t really trauma or wasn’t really a big deal — it wasn’t that they were abused; it’s that they were too sensitive or even worse, they were crazy, and it was all in their head.

When we hear of someone doing well and assume it’s because their trauma was clearly minor, we’re reinforcing the incorrect assumption that in order for an experience to be truly valid in its level of difficulty, a person must stay trapped by triggers indefinitely. And therein lies our twisted desire for a harder life — because then I can get more of that silver bullet — validation — and feel okay with myself. Because if the world sees my pain as valid, then it’s valid. My own recognition of my experiences will never measure up to that external recognition.

To break free from this, we must first self-validate — of course, my challenges have shaped who I am today and have been a struggle for me. I don’t need anyone else to get it because I get it as clearly as I know my hand is attached to my arm.

Second, we must accept the yoke of free will that Hashem gifted us. Rav Dessler writes in Michtav MeEliyahu that, while our nekudas habechirah might move, meaning certain choices may be harder or easier at different times, we always have free choice, including regarding our “triggers.” We must work to move our nekudas habechirah constantly so the triggers of yesterday are no longer the triggers of today.

Many people do this work together with a mental health professional. It’s not easy at all. And it starts with a choice.

Dr. Chaya Lieba Kobernick

Founder/Director at The CBT/DBT Center


The Stakes Are Too High [Inbox / Issue 894]

I’ve been following with interest the back-and-forth in these pages about the value and effectiveness of therapists regarding their age, and I’ve noticed an interesting thing that no one has commented on. From all the responses, the only ones actually advocating younger therapists are the young therapists themselves! Not one recipient of therapy has written in to explain the benefit of having a younger therapist. I think that’s very telling.

I know if I needed to see a therapist, I would definitely want to see someone older and more experienced. I truly value the single therapist who wrote in that she won’t deal with marriage therapy since she’s not married and doesn’t feel she has a good enough understanding of that dynamic. Her honesty is refreshing!

I realize all therapists must start out somewhere, and the beginning isn’t easy. But young therapists, please recognize your limitations. Lack of life experience is a limitation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Being honest about it will actually help you in the long run to gain the experience that you need. Please do us all a favor, and don’t rush to private practice. The stakes are too high.

Esther L.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 898)

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