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Dear Emuna: Chutzpah!
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Chutzpah!

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

by

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

Published: April 14, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 16

(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

(9) Anonymous, May 3, 2012 6:21 PM

To John Smith--The woman who signed her letter lonely may very well have watched her husband become a workaholic as their marriage progressed. To tell her to "just deal with it and appreciate his efforts" is like telling a depressed person to just snap out of it and smile,

(8) Anonymous, May 1, 2012 10:25 PM

Obnoxious teen, over-tolerant mother!

I do not agree with you or the mother you described! This doesn't mean that either of you are incorrect, it's just that the jails, juvenile correction facilities are filled with male teenagers who may have been raised as you suggested....making excuses for every obnoxious thing they do. I raised four children so I have a little experience, but no sympathy for that age. I was a teen after all and didn't excuse them then. I was too busy studying and planning on making a future for myself. There is no excuse for rudeness; if the self-indulgent teen were taught to think about someone else beside himself, he might amount to a better adult. Minority and ethnic families routinely cater to their "precious" sons. My younger son pointed out that weeping mothers always moan that their sons, being sentenced to prison, always claim they are "good" boys. What about responsibility, respect for others, duty? Why is it that it is everyone else's fault that they are having trouble growing up? From what the childless young couples that I know tell me, having to cater to obnoxious teens is the main reason they are childless!

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