| Tempo: Second Guessing |

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“If it’s so much the absolute right thing to do... then you go babysit for your sister”

Last Week:

“Chavi, I need you to help Toby out,” I say firmly. “She’s a young mother, she needs to go to this dinner, and you love Baruch Ber. Just do it, please.”

Chavi glares at me, her mouth set in a straight line. “Fine! I’ll just cancel on Rikki then, the one bright spot in my entire week,” she snaps and stomps off to her room.

I’d totally forgotten to offer to pay for her food or tell her about the double pay. I guess it’ll wait until she stomps back down the stairs. In the meantime, I’ll just sit here wallowing, wondering if I made the right choice. Did I squash my daughter to help my sister? Or should Chavi know by now that chesed keeps the world going round?

And all I could think was… What should I have done differently?


Dial Direct

Mom, this entire quandary, along with the tension, pressure, irritation, and anxiety, could have easily been avoided had young, fun Aunt Toby simply asked Chavi to babysit directly. Why would any responsible teenager who’s old enough to babysit need her mother involved in the decision? And let’s face it: The decision is Chavi’s alone to make. She doesn’t sound like a girl who needs lessons in chesed. She gives plenty of her own time to help out with her younger siblings as well as housework, which speaks volumes nowadays.

Chinuch means teaching our children to make the right choices and instilling good character traits. Causing Chavi to feel guilty for not wanting to cancel her plans for the evening, and forcing her to do a chesed by babysitting for her cousin is not chinuch.

As a postscript, there’s a question that begs to be answered: What mother would choose to leave her precious baby in the care of a resentful teenager (even if she is a niece) who hates to babysit?

Eve Mannheim, Atlanta, Georgia


Family Project?

Oooh! Tough call, and one I relate to with a couple teenage daughters myself! My girls work for me full time as my personal “mother's helpers,” and, like Chavi, they also don’t like to babysit. I usually tell people that they aren’t available, but there have been the occasional times when I have encouraged them to take a job since it was someone close to us, or someone who was desperate, like Toby. Personally, I would have told my sister to bring the baby to my house and we would watch him as a family effort. I would explain that I know it’s not ideal regarding his sleep schedule, but she’s desperate, and this is what I can offer. I want to help my sister in her dilemma, but I also can’t force my otherwise very helpful daughter into something she really does not enjoy.

Shana S., Los Angeles


Just Do It... Yourself

Sorry, Rivka, but you’ve suggested/encouraged/twisted your daughter’s arm enough. Yes, you should tell her about the double pay and your offer to spring for the food the night after, but this is your sister’s problem, not your daughter’s.

Your daughter, by your own admission, does not only a huge share of the childcare in your own home and is more than willing to help her aunt, but has also told you numerous times that she hates babysitting outside of the house.

Yes, it would be nice if our kids would run to do whatever chesed we think they should, but that’s not the case. And you know what? If it’s so much the absolute right thing to do that you must find Toby a solution, then you should go babysit for your sister if your daughter is unwilling. If you’re not willing to do that, ask yourself this: What is the real issue here?

Chani S., Jerusalem


Long-term Chinuch

There are two separate issues here and it will be easier to clarify what the right response is if they’re kept separate:

  1. Toby needs a babysitter so she can go to a dinner. She just has one baby. If the older married sister really wants to help her, she can tell Toby to bring the baby to her house for a few hours.
  2. Chavi’s mother wants to be mechanech her to do chesed. Rav Mattisyahu Salomon ztz”l wrote in his sefer, With Hearts Full of Love, that when handling chinuch issues, parents have to make sure they’re motivated by what will have a long-term chinuch effect on their child and not by what is good for the parents.

Since Chavi said that she’d rather help her aunt in a different way, then her mother should facilitate Chavi doing chesed that appeals to her more. As long as she’s learning to give of herself to help people, that aspect of the chinuch is being accomplished.

The other chinuch area that the mother needs to address is to make sure that Chavi has a love for children and will be a giving mother. That also needs to be done with chochmah. It will not be accomplished by forcing her or bribing her to babysit.

Mrs. L.


Leave Mom Out of It

I think it was okay for Rivka to have asked her daughter Chavi to help out her aunt.

However, after Chavi showed zero interest, I don’t think her mother needed to push her to babysit. In the future, should another situation arise, Rivka can tell her sister to speak to Chavi directly. This will enable her daughter to either be more sensitive and babysit or be honest about her feelings about babysitting and keep Rivka out of it. If she’s old enough to babysit, she’s old enough to deal with her aunt without her mother in the middle, which is much healthier for their relationship.

If the need for a babysitter was for something more important than a dinner, then yes, Rivka could and should tell her daughter she needs to help out. Attending a dinner is certainly not an emergency, and her niece doesn’t have to be pushed into it.


Clifton, NJ


A Sisterly Issue

What jumped out at me was this had nothing to do with teenage Chavi.

I think if Rivka was a little self-aware, she’d ask herself why she so strongly needed Chavi to babysit for Toby. Could it be that it was nothing to do with Toby being able to attend a random dinner, and everything to do with her insecurity and desperation to feel relevant and useful to her younger (cooler) sister? “Uch, I hate disappointing her.”

This felt like a flashing neon light of how not to parent: all about the mother’s feelings, dressed up in a “chesed is an important chinuch lesson” disguise.

Name Withheld


Mothers Like You...

Arrrrghhhhh! No, no, and NO. You want to teach your daughter chesed... so you make her hate chesed. Brilliant. I know your daughter very, very well. She, and lots of girls like her with mothers like you, is the one who pushes off shidduchim as long as possible because she needs a break from being Mommy Junior before she has her own home.

Shoshana G.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 880)

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