“Mi l’Hashem elai!” In every generation, there are those who respond and take a stand for Hashem
There are some things in life that nothing can prepare you for.
Seeing your 14-year-old-daughter in a motorcycle jacket surrounded by similar looking teens is one of them.
Tack on to that the fact that I know this photo was taken on a Friday, and the sun is setting in the sea behind her, and my heart plummets. A battle cry reverberates between my ears. If I tell you it was directed at anyone other than my daughter, I’d be lying. Forget the kids who pulled her into this gang. I’m laser-focused only on her.
The arena of the battle is the home front — only because I don’t hang out with the motorcycle crew. We’re in the middle of the fish course, and I glance at her face, encircled by the hoodie she’s got on.
What’s that sparkle? I knew it! I told her I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but she did it anyway. She got the helix earring. The air is caught in my throat. I can’t breathe.
I rip into her. Why, why, why? Why must you wear so short, so low-necked, so tight, etc.? And that wasn’t enough? Now the helix. The only answer I get is, “This is me. Get used to it.” And for variety, “I have a right to be who I am.” I’m confused because don’t I have a right to be who I am? I built this home with my husband, and it didn’t include cigarettes, a helix, or this sort of clothing.
We talk to other people. We read parenting books. We go to shabbatons for parents in our situation and meet regularly with our rav. I’m shocked to discover that even among my close friends, there are those who have walked this path before us. We’re taken aback to hear the same theme over and over. Times have changed. This is a new generation. Arguments will only distance them. You have one goal: Keep her close.
I distill all that I hear and draw one conclusion. The changes have to come from me. I may want to scream at her, but I have to call out to myself. To the deepest recesses within myself. So deep, I didn’t know I existed on that plane.
The work is painful, excruciating even. At our most recent visit to the rav, he said, “Even if it feels like swallowing frogs, this is what you have to do. It will get easier with time.”
So we try. We go to the mall where she works and buy ourselves a small pizza for Melaveh Malkah. When my husband walks out of the pizza store, he’s carrying two boxes. We take the escalator up and pass by the store where she works. She runs over to us. She pretends I don’t see what she’s wearing. I play the same game.
The battle cry has turned inward. I howl. My steps are baby steps. But at least they’re in the right direction. I’m the one called to arms, to use all I can muster to open up my heart and my arms… to her.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 770)
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