For a long time I was convinced that my parents had nothing to do with my upbringing. I was sure that I raised myself and my parents' sole purpose was to hamper my style. Now I am not so sure. I think that maybe they had a little to do with how I turned out and deserve some of the credit.

I was a rotten adolescent and it must have been dreadful living with me. I loved slamming doors and rolling my eyes at everything my parents said. I knew for a fact that I was the most misunderstood person on the planet. I don't know how my parents were so accepting and patient. They actually made me feel that I was brilliant and witty and lovable and a source of pride. If I had been my parents, I would have disowned myself long ago.

Parents, take heart ... your moody, impossible teen will get over it. I promise.

In any case, it's a good thing they kept me because I turned out pretty well. So parents, take heart... your moody, impossible teen will get over it. I promise.

Although my mother has a number of doubts as to her success as a parent, I think my parents are nearly perfect. God knows I did not always think so. In fact there were times that I thought they were the most unbearable people on earth and made them suffer for it. Now I know they were doing what they knew was to be best for me.

Then the time came for me, the first-born, to leave the nest. Two months after my high school graduation I was on a plane to Israel for a year of intensive Jewish studies in a girls' seminary. My parents sent me off with plenty of shampoo and warm clothes, and some things that are even more important: tremendous confidence in myself, a fierce pride in my Jewishness, a firm trust in God, and a crazy love of life. I was scared of nothing. Just as surely as I knew that my mother would cry at the airport, I was certain that I would not. My parents had prepared me well ... I knew that I was ready to face the world

THE JOYS OF INDEPENDENCE

Thank God I adjusted to my new lifestyle quickly and easily. I have been in Israel for about five months now and am very happy. I love my independence. I have made awesome friends and am having so much fun. I am going new places and meeting new people. I am learning Torah and doing well in school. And for better or worse, I am still as full of myself as ever.

Although I miss my parents more than I ever thought I would, I am not homesick at all. I know that whenever I need them, they are only a phone call -- with a 10-hour time difference -- away.

My parents continue to smooth my path wherever I go, and they don't even know they are doing it.

And they continue to smooth my path without even knowing it. My parents' reputation precedes me everywhere I go. People look at me with new respect when they hear who my parents are. I am proud of them and proud of what they do. I feel like wearing a nametag that says, "Hi, my name is Dena. My parents are Rabbi Dov and Chana Heller, and they work for Aish."

I have always loved being part of the Aish community in L.A. It's been my life, and I know now that Jewish outreach is my passion. I want to help the Jewish people like my parents ... it's in my blood. That is what I am most indebted to my parents for.

I am not saying that I am all grown-up. I still do stupid things and thank God my parents don't know about them. But I do want them to know how much I love them and appreciate everything they've done for me. They have made me who I am and I am proud to be their daughter. I only hope I can live up to their standards and repay them for a fraction of what they have given me.

My parents are so wise and dedicated, so loving and caring, so calm and level-headed. All my life people have been telling me how lucky I am to have parents like mine. Now it is my turn to thank God for giving me the best parents in the world.