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Dear Emuna: Teenage Driver
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Teenage Driver

Help! My 16-year-old daughter wants to get her driver's license! Am I being too overprotective?


Dear Emuna,

My daughter just turned 16 and she really wants to get her driver’s license. She is constantly whining about it and complains that we are overprotective. She says that “all the other parents let.” Should be just give in? Is she right?

- Parents of Teenagers

Dear POT,

I think there are at least two separate issues here. One is the oft-repeated expression, “All the other parents let.” If I had a dollar for every time an adolescent said that…It is almost never true and is almost always a tool for manipulation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be flexible. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to reasonable arguments. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate the seriousness of the situation (I have changed my mind and given in to many a sleepover request when it turns out that the other parents do in fact “let”.)

The specific issue at stake is driving. I’ve always been in favor of raising the driving age until I heard some recent study results. Apparently in states where the legal driving age is now 18 instead of 16, there are few accidents among 16-year-olds – for obvious reasons. But guess what has increased? That’s right, the number of accidents in the 18-year-old category. There is no question that driving is risky – and traumatic for the parents. But it is a risk the world accepts. It is part of growing up. It is part of creating adults from children.

I think we cripple our kids when we hold them back from the reasonable experiences of their peers due to our anxiety. Each step of our children’s independence is difficult for us. It means they are growing up – and away from us. Almost nothing marks that more dramatically than getting a driver’s license and the “freedom” it provides. We have to give them appropriate guidelines (it’s not you we don’t trust, it’s the other guy) and rules, lessons and cautions – and lots of practice. And then we have to let go and recognize that just like everything else, this too is in the Almighty’s hands.

- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have a very good marriage. We can talk about anything and we enjoy each other’s company. Our parenting styles are even in sync. There is only one issue that can sometimes be a source of conflict. My husband is outgoing and gregarious. He loves a big party and a “happening” scene. I am more introverted. I don’t enjoy the noise and commotion of a big gathering. And I especially don’t enjoy the social expectations. I like conversations with a small group of friends. Sometimes I feel like I am holding him back from having fun and that there’s something wrong with me. Doesn’t everyone love a good party?

- Loner

Dear Party Animal – Not,

Only one issue? You are one lucky lady. The Almighty made all different types of people with different character traits. Some are extroverted and some are introverted. Neither quality is morally superior to the other. They are just different aspects of who we are. And we can not be who we aren’t. You and your husband were probably attracted to each other because you each wanted a little of what you lacked, a little of what your partner has. So enjoy it. If your husband had wanted a party girl, he would have married one.

You can each engage in separate activities on occasion where the desires of your natures clash. And, like all other areas of marriage, you may also be required to compromise. You may have to accompany him to some large social gatherings. He may stay home with you and a small group of friends, or maybe just you! You can both learn and grow from each other and from your separate and different experiences. The key is not to judge each other – or yourself. Like I said, neither quality is superior (although sometimes society places more value on the extrovert). This is the way the Almighty made you – and He doesn’t make mistakes.

- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

We are constantly opening our home to guests. And both my husband and I love it. I don’t mind the effort because I enjoy the experience. Sometimes our guests are friends and sometimes they are strangers. I don’t expect them to help me cook or set the table of even bring a gift (although I happen to think it’s good character and says something about their mother if they don’t). But there is one thing that bothers me.

My husband always clears the table (with my children’s help) and sometimes the guests just sit there while he does. He doesn’t complain but it really bothers me. Any tips on dealing with this?

- (Mostly) Happy Hostess

Dear Hostess,

If your husband’s example doesn’t spur them to get up and clear, it’s hard to imagine anything will, other than perhaps a direct request. It requires a particular obtuseness and self-centeredness to sit idly by, not lifting a finger, as your host clears the table. That is an ingrained bad character trait that you are most likely not going to change. If you want to continue to have guests, you need to make peace with it. I do confess that if the guests are outright rude, this may be their first – and only – invitation. I personally do expect participation in the conversation when people come for a meal (otherwise I feel like a waitress for “party of two at the end of the table”) but maybe some of them are actually more introverted like the writer in question #2 and I am judging unfavorably! You need to be solely a giver – with no expectations of anything in return. It’s the only way to do any type of kindness. And I guess it is just possible that if they watch often enough, you will slowly make an impact – perhaps on their choice of mate anyway.

- Emuna

October 2, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 16

(14) Anonymous, June 20, 2013 11:02 AM

One wayor another...get over it. Seems like too much stress.

There's two cures for being frustrated by inconsiderate guests.

The easy one is to simply not invite them back. You don't have to educate them on their social inferiority or insult their mothers, you simply received different home training and it bugs you that they come empty handed and won't help clear. As a side note, when i was a kid most of out socializing was done with extended family out of town. we were never expected to bring anything because we were schlepping 200 miles. Being there with two kids was enough for my mom to bring already. When I got older I leaned that bringing something is what one does when a date pointed it out to me. So I never come empty handed anymore. I even bring a wallet when I visit a restaurant.

The harder cure...get over it. Enjoy the people coming to your house and take their lack of manners (in your mind) as an opportunity to pamper these friends. Everyone likes to be pampered. Why would you invite someone into your home that you don't feel is worth pampering? Isn't it a mitzvah to give without not only repayment, but even recognition that a gift was given? I'm not saying it's easy...and I'm not saying that my wife and I are the best at that particular act of mental and spiritual acrobatics-c'mon even some flowers from the corner can't do that? But we're trying.

Take the folks you're iffy about to a restaurant...easier to fake an emergency call from the babysitter and escape.

(13) Anonymous, June 20, 2013 10:49 AM

I'm not a party animal either.

My wife likes people. She likes having conversations for conversations sake and she's up on all the latest things happening in the big fun world out there. She likes to entertain. And to go to parties. And I like her We entertain and go to parties, but not necessarily together.

When we entertain, I cook and serve and wash up and make sure the snacks trays are full. On Chanukah I run the latke assembly line. I stay in the kitchen and chat with the other wallflower spouses, munch on whatnot and sip wine. It's much less lively than the front room. And honestly no one misses my unsmiling bored expression in the front room anyway. If they don't see me frowning they assume I'm somewhere having a great time. And usually I am doing okay. When we go to parties elsewhere, I make an appearance and then do the same thing...I help the hostess out by ferrying drinks or clearing plates and washing up and again enjoy the quiet. Now that the hostesses know I enjoy that they usually have my tasks laid out in advance. I know a lot about others peoples kitchens. My wife....she's in the front room enjoying the heck out of herself being the charming person she is. If we do the restaurant thing..well I smoke and have a one really misses me...I look like I'm working.

As soon as we allowed ourselves to attend parties together without being joined at the hip, we started enjoying parties. With her big smile and charm and my willingness to do chores...we're a hot ticket on the social circuit.

It's like synagogue. Sometimes it's just fine doing the same thing at the same time, but separately in our own way. We learned to like each other as we are...we're in our forties-this is probably it. We only get in trouble when we try and remake each other in our own image. That only happens any more when the respective in-laws show up.

So I moved us to Israel so that was a little less frequent.

(12) scott, June 20, 2013 10:24 AM

Children grow should parents.

I wasn't my fathers idea of the most responsible kid. He had valid concerns about me driving unsupervised at sixteen. Dad's still a smart guy who gets smarter the older I get.

But despite these fears of his, I still was at the DMV a couple days after my 16th birthday posing for the picture and being the big man with a driver's license. As should you daughter so long as she's coordinated enough to pass the drivers test. To do otherwise is humiliating for a child.

But Dad still had the car keys. even after acing the test and taking drivers ed (which I had to pay for and get myself to on my bicycle by the way) it was several weeks of supervised daytime driving before I drove at night and more weeks before I drove by myself and then months before I could have anyone but family in the car. Freeway driving? What did I need to be on a freeway for? It was that kind of thing.

And when I got a couple speeding tickets-because I was irresponsible as he feared-he made me pay the tickets and find alternative transportation to work and events for a couple months as well as cover the increase in insurance premiums to underscore that we did not get tickets in our family-especially in his car. Breaking the law has consequences.

Getting my license at 16 as opposed 18 allowed my father to teach, evaluate and drive home lessons about responsible driving before I was completely on my own. Had I done it at eighteen after I left the house for the service and college, I'd have been learning all on my own and probably would have made many more mistakes. And those mistakes could have been hurtful or fatal for myself and others.

You know...your daughter is going to leave home someday...either because she's ready or because she's tired of being held back...she can learn the tough lessons through you or from someone on the street. Who do you want teaching her how to be a grown up?

(11) Anonymous, April 19, 2012 6:26 PM


While I do think that overall, if guests don't help out, or don't bring a gift, it is because overall, they're ungrateful; still I would beg to differ on the generalization. Gifts can be given in so many different ways - time, showing caring, kindness, sharing of what they do have, giving a Dvar Torah etc....these are all "gifts". Also, "company" is also a gift (I know one family that just love the company). Also, one should understand that giving a gift every week, turns out to be very expensive over a year. Imagine you spend just $10 per week, that comes to $540 a year, not including special holidays. I have been to different families, and some have personally requested that I don't help out at all. I generally try to take a few things off the table, and make sure to thank the host and hostess, commenting on how nice the food and decor was. Sometimes the clearing up is difficult because the kitchen is often full with dirty dishes and serving up dishes, so space is limited. Clearing up adds to the clutter in the kitchen (which is sometimes difficult to clean up). So it really depends on different families, lifestyles and cultures. Also, the families that have specifically asked me not to clean up, usually say, that its our mitzvah that we had such great guests, and we want to show our appreciation by cleaning up. Having the guests clean up can be seen as a certain embarrassment to them. Also, I know another family that specifically asks the guests not to help out, so the children get good chinuch about cleaning up after themselves. How can it be good chinuch if all the guests clean the table, before the kids get a chance!

Anonymous, November 11, 2012 5:58 PM

"..understand that giving a gift every week, turns out to be very expensive over a year. Imagine you spend just $10 per week, that comes to $540 a year, not including special holidays." While there is definitely a cost involved in giving gifts to hosts, it can not be ignored that the $10 per week for a gift per host most likely is much less than the cost of preparing that shabbat or yom tov meal at home for 2 adults, and certainly if children are involved! If the hosts are inviting guests whom they know can not afford to bring gifts, and to do so would be a financial burden, the hosts would have most likely made clear, though sensitively, that they do not want their guests bearing gifts.

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