Dear Emuna,

My 15-year-old daughter is part of a great group of girls. They have lovely character traits and I enjoy how they interact with each other. Since they don’t drive, the parents all take turns taking them to school events, social events, sleepovers etc. All, that is, except one. There is one mother (and father) who never drives, never hosts and never participates in any way, shape or form. We are starting to feel resentful – very resentful! – but we don’t want her daughter to pay the price. What should we do?

Frustrated Carpoolers

Dear Frustrated Carpoolers,

I think that’s all carpoolers actually! You are describing a common situation. I can imagine all carpoolers out there nodding their heads. There’s one in every group.

Wherever we go in life, there will be someone who takes advantage, doesn’t pull their weight, uses others, is more of a taker than a giver. This is an opportunity to model for your daughter how to deal with such an individual. The first rule is not to speak lashon hara, derogatorily. It is counter-productive (and against Jewish law) to just constantly complain about them. Either say something to the mother or accept the situation with grace.

If you think the mother will hear it, then perhaps you could nicely mention that the driving and hosting does not seem to be distributed evenly. If you think she won’t hear it then keep your mouth shut and take solace from the fact that you are doing an act (actually many acts!) of kindness for your daughter’s friend. She needs this social interaction and you are making it happen for her. In addition, perhaps you need to judge her parents favorably. You don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors – are they working multiple jobs to make ends meet and so have no time to drive? Is someone psychologically or physically debilitated? Are the parents struggling with each other and so have no time for their daughter?

Even though it’s frustrating, you are helping this young girl out and that is a tremendous mitzvah. This should be its own reward and help ease the frustration.

Office Romance?

Dear Emuna,

I work for a large hi-tech company and share an office with two people. One of them is a Jewish 27-year-old single woman. A year ago, this woman worked on a project with another man in the company. He is 32, Jewish, married and has children. Since then, the two of them have been spending more time together. I kept thinking it's a passing phase, but their relationship is becoming more and more intense. He helps her out with her work and any else she needs, they have intimate conversations about their lives, eat lunch together, have conversations on the phone after work hours and he spends a lot of the day in our office.

I doubt they are having any physical relationship but what I see is very disturbing to me. I approached her when they were only starting to hang out together and she had said that he is very helpful to her professionally and that if he is thinking about her in a romantic way, it's not her problem. I have wanted to confront one of them alone about the situation, but I just can't find the guts. I also doubt confronting her again would make any difference. I'd really appreciate your advice!

Sensitive Colleague

Dear Sensitive,

I also don’t like the sound of what you are describing. It is certainly a recipe for disaster and we can only pray that it doesn’t turn out to be so.

Although you feel badly that you don’t have the “guts,” I think you are too hard on yourself. You already tried to say something but you were rebuffed; she was not receptive. Based on this past experience, your assumption that confronting her won’t make a difference seems to be a true one. You really don’t have many options outside of the aforementioned prayer.

If you are capable of subtlety, you could occasionally tell stories of work colleagues who crossed the line, men who ran off with their secretaries, marriages destroyed by office romances and so on. But you’d have to be so subtle that she might not get the message. She is 27, single and perhaps a little naïve.

Maybe you should try speaking to him instead. He is probably more aware of the danger and he has much more to lose. Maybe just the fact that you have noticed and are watching will be enough to put him on his guard. You are to be commended for your recognition of these potential stumbling blocks. Let’s hope (and pray!) that you are proven wrong.

Kids Don’t Get Along

Dear Emuna,

I have three daughters. One of them doesn’t get along with another although they both have great relationships with the third sister. It’s painful for me as a mother to see the lack of closeness. Is there anything I can do?

Mom in Pain

Dear Mom in Pain,

It’s excruciatingly painful to us when our children don’t get along (by the way, the Almighty feels the same way when His children don’t get along). But the answer to the question “Is there anything I can do?” is basically “Not much.” I’m not sure of the age of your children. You can certainly avoid damaging actions like comparing and favoritism but you can’t “make” them get along, and trying to force it will only lead to resentment.

I recommend waiting it out – however old they are. As they mature and confront their personal life challenges, they will change and grow and so will their attitude.

It’s hard for us as parents to just watch silently from the sidelines but interfering almost always makes it worse. They know you want them to be close. You have to step back and be patient and wait for it to happen – however long it takes.

And, of course, pray.