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Dear Emuna: Chutzpah!
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Chutzpah!

I can’t believe how my friend is raising her teenage son.


Dear Emuna,

I was out with some friends and their teenage son the other night. My friend (the boy’s mother) made a request of her son and he answered her in such a rude and chutzpahdik fashion. I was appalled. But what shocked me even more was that my friend didn’t respond. She didn’t tell him how inappropriate and out of line his behavior was. I don’t know who I’m more disappointed in – him or her. What should I do? Should I confront her? Or go with her to a parenting class?

-- Disillusioned

Dear Disillusioned,

I felt the same way as you – until I had my own teenagers. Only then was I able to appreciate this mother’s wisdom and self-control. She understood her son far better than you possibly could. She knew it was tough time in his life, a time of confusion and pain. She recognized that his behavior wasn’t personal; he was just emotional and frustrated and lashing out at the closest target. She knew that he was torn between the need to grow up and the desire to remain a child, between the quest for independence and the security of home. And she remembered what a hard and frustrating stage of life that was. She was wise enough not to get into a power struggle with her son - or any other kind of struggle for that matter. And to avoid embarrassing him to public. She should be commended, not condemned. You shouldn’t take her to a parenting class. You should ask her to give you one!

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My husband is quite literally never home. He travels frequently for business and works long hours when he is home. Whenever I try to discuss it with him, he claims he is doing it to provide for me and the kids. But I’m always saying that I would prefer less money and more time. I feel like I’m living a cliché – and not a very pleasant one. What should I do?

-- Lonely

Dear Lonely,

Although your story is simple, there are so many possibilities below the surface that I’m afraid to wade in. Let’s just address a few of them.

Perhaps your husband’s self-esteem (like that of many men) is dependent on financial success. Unfortunately, if that is the case, nothing will ever be enough. There will always be more to accomplish and acquire. A supportive wife can certainly validate other choices and praise other qualities. But deeply ingrained habits and beliefs are hard to change. I would recommend some individual therapy.

I hate to raise this issue but it is possible that there is something uncomfortable in your marriage or family life that he is avoiding. If that is a real possibility, you should explore discussing the situation with a professional.

It’s also possible that he is choosing work because it’s simpler, with clear-cut rewards and relationships. Life at home is messier – with bills, teenagers (like the one in the previous question!) and leaky faucets. Work can be a soothing and rewarding escape.

Ultimately the two of you have to have a serious conversation about this. A marriage is a relationship in which both parties need to participate. It is not healthy for you, him, or the kids to continue down this path.

You need to act now – just make sure that all your suggestions are voiced with love and concern as opposed frustration and anger. Your goal is to be effective, not to vent.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My children are grown now and living out of the house. Some are married with children, some are married without children and some are single. But they all have one thing in common. Whenever they come home (like for Passover or some other family occasion) they fight for my attention as if they are two year-olds. They even complain if they believe (incorrectly) that I am favoring one grandchild over another. It’s really starting to wear on me and I’m dreading their next trip. Do you have any tips for me?

Still Frazzled after All These Years

Dear Still Frazzled,

Maybe you’ve heard this joke: “What’s the definition of nachas? When your children and grandchildren come to visit. What’s the definition of pleasure? When they leave.”

The most important piece of advice I can give you is that your experience is completely normal. It is the same story I heard from all of my friends in your situation. It is the universal condition.

Children (no matter how old) want their parents’ attention. Badly. And they are resentful of anyone who takes it away from them. We are fooling ourselves if we think they have changed because they have gotten older.

We can only do our best – being loving and kind to everyone – and, as with the teenager in letter one, remember not to take it too personally.

Focus on enjoying having your children around and try to block out the unpleasantness just as you did when they were younger. When they leave you will be sorry if you were unable to enjoy their trip.

-- Emuna

April 14, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 18

(14) Beverly Margolis, August 28, 2015 10:02 PM


To the person who was shocked about his friend's son...mind your own business and concentrate on what YOU can do about you.

For the woman whose husband is always away, my life was just the opposite. I was a publisher's representative and covered Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas plus a small part in Louisiana and Missouri. So my hubby stayed home with the kids and I flew/drove around that huge territory.
My ex could not make a living, period. He just had very bad manners and could not deal with the public; I was the polar opposite.
BUT I made my company let me go home on the weekends, even if I had to fly to get home, and I worked two sets of 20 weeks each, they took time off for six wees each time off.
The company finally fired me for refusing to obey my sales MANGLER.
I had an a set plan and could not easily break from it. Once, was in Salina Kansas when he demanded that I "stop off at Dodge City." I could not go there until the nest time I was there. It was a four-hour trip, two hours of selling and another four hours back, eating up a whole day and meant that I would not be able to see the professors with whom I had appointments. Another time I was in Texarkana, a town that is split between Texas and Arkansas. He wanted me to "on your way back to Dallas, stop off in El Paso."
Have you ever seen a map of Texas? It is 810 miles from one end of Texas to El Paso on the other side. From Texarkana to Dallas it is a mere 181 miles. That means that I'd have to travel almost a full day to get there. That is where the saying "The sun is riz, the sun has set but we still be in Texas yet!"
When I told him that it was impossible, he fired me after years of being on the road.
Well...just be happy that your husband does what he has to do. I know it is lonely. I spent over 40 weeks alone and it isn't fun. Maybe you could ask him to travel with him for a week or so and see what he goes through, it ain't fun, believe me.

(13) Mom in Jerusalem, December 1, 2014 11:24 AM

chutzpadik son

Emuna, I agree that to response with a tirade in public would not help the son - certainly not in the long term and most likely, not in the short term as well. However, being he humiliated his mother - and even more so, in public - I would have thought it would be appropriate to respond in a low, firm tone, "However strongly you feel, it is unacceptable for you to speak to me that way." and if it's an issue that needs to be discussed further, to add, "We will discuss it later, in private." No shouting, no gritting one's teeth, but yes setting firm boundaries of what is unacceptable. Would you accept a slap in public, just because someone's in turmoil? No - because it's not acceptable. Verbal abuse is the same as a slap. BTW, I have raised quite a few teenagers, am in the process of raising another few and still have some more yet to raise. A basic level of respect needs to be insisted upon. It is not a child's Divine right to have all of his/her needs cared for, while treating the givers i.e. parents, like dirt. Even in emotional turmoil, basic values need to be consistently taught as gently and patiently as possible. If one's teen is strongly oppositional, it's probably a good idea to get professional guidance how to do this. This is only in terms of how I believe that parents should react to chutzpah. Of course, you're 100% correct that the woman should not say anything to her friend - that's not her job! But being people take your advice in dealing with their own children, I wanted to state another view.

(12) Anonymous, February 16, 2014 7:19 PM

chutzpedik boy/disillusioned

Most likely the mother waited till they arrived home and had privacy to talk to her son about his behaviour

(11) Richard Marcus, August 14, 2012 2:05 AM

a different Idea to C0nsider

You should be overjoyed know that your children crave your attention. Most children move out in more ways than one, leaving parents to pick up the pieces by themselves. If your children still want your attention, GIVE IT TO THEM. Look at them when they speak to you, pay attention to what they;re saying to you.. They still want you and the love that you and only you,ere capable of giving them. And when you go to bed at night, get down on your knees, at least in your thoughts if not literally, and thank G-d your kids still care!!

(10) Ruth, July 12, 2012 4:35 PM

so let them to offend us?

I was a teenegar full of the above described emotions - I wanted to swear at my mum and I did on few occassions. She put me in my place and it taught to behave. I dont know if its American way of raising kids, but I saw it elswhere too. No matter how confused a teenager is there is NO reason to treat a caring parent with chutzpah. We need to educate our children - otherwise they might never learn!!! Its like expecting that the boy will just understand. They have to know they are limits otherwise they will just grow into selfish absorbed adults

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