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It's Not about Me

It's Not about Me

My daughter wants the fancy ring, the elaborate gown, and all the bells and whistles that I could not care less about. But this is her wedding, not mine.

by Shira Goldman

Most little girls (and many even bigger ones) love bridal magazines. They love to pore over the pictures and dream. Their fantasies include the perfect dress, the perfect colors, the perfect flowers -- and sometimes the perfect man.

By the time the actual day arrives, they have had years of preparation. Dress styles have been studied and discarded. Rings have been reviewed and updated. The latest hair styles have been canvassed and rated. The lucky groom just has to step into the middle of the picture (a feat made particularly easy in the era of digital cameras!).

I was never one of those girls. I had no interest in Brides magazine; in fact I viewed it with scorn (and still shudder at the sight). Although I was definitely eager to get married, all I wanted was the man.

I bought the first dress that fit (at a discount rate), chose a simple menu, a good band and nixed the cake. Okay, so I did notice that the diamond in the ring was a little small (or did that take a few years?).

Now, thank God, my daughter is getting married and she is not like me in this way; not at all. She wants the elaborate gown, the fancy ring, and all the bells and whistles. She wants a great photographer as she imagines pouring over those pictures for years to come. Were I to tell her that those two people in my wedding photos now look like strangers to me, she'd stare uncomprehendingly. Were I to suggest that the greater joys and challenges of daily living preclude sitting on the couch and reminiscing, I would lose all credibility.

Different tastes should not be turned into points of principle.

So I keep my mouth shut, about these and all other details, because it's not about me. Different tastes should not be turned into points of principle. I had my wedding; this is hers.

Maybe there are some things I would do differently. This is not the moment. If my daughter is joyful, I will be joyful. I am not reliving my wedding nor experiencing vicariously what I may have missed.

Although I'm sure there will still be tension and struggle (and an awful lot of things to do!), I am optimistic that this outlook will take the edge out of the preparations (along with prayer and a glass of wine!).

It's a powerful and crucial realization: It's not about me. It's not about my honor or status, my respect or glory. It's about my children. Only they can live their lives.

When my husband was growing up, his father was the vice-president of a large, multi-national corporation. Sometimes he would invite his son to join him for lunch in the company dining room. My husband cringes today as he describes how he presented himself -- long, frizzy hair, torn jeans, an out-of-shape T-shirt. "But," he says, "my father never acted like he was embarrassed by me. He was just glad I was there."

If it's not about me, I need never be embarrassed by my children's clothing, or behavior. I may encourage them to change. I may give them tools for change. I may even bribe them to change, because it's good for them. Not because I'll get applause; not because people will think I'm a wonderful parent. The love inspired by this total acceptance creates a strong sense of self-confidence in our children.

If it's not about me, they can choose their own career path (within reason of course!), their own goals. I don't need them to follow exactly in my footsteps to affirm my self-worth. We cripple our children when we give them the power to bolster or destroy our egos. It's a damaging and confusing role reversal. Our job is to comfort and nurture our children. We must look elsewhere (or inward) for our own centers of strength and stability.

If it's not about me, they (may) not need to rebel to achieve independence. Because it's a gift they've already been given. If I give my children independence, I'm saying I trust you, you can make good choices.

I'm not living for or through my children. I'm not imposing burdensome conditions to the relationship.

And if it's not about me, I'll be with them whatever choices they make. There will still be pain -- over lost opportunities, over wasted potential, over foolish choices, over life's struggles -- but underneath it all will be a solid foundation.

If it's not about me, I can also create an independent life. I'm not living for or through my children. I'm not imposing "Jewish guilt" or burdensome conditions to the relationship. It's unconditional love which our sages teach is the only kind that will last.

I'm not having a hard time realizing that this wedding is not about me because parenting never has been. It's about creating healthy adults who can choose their own wedding invitations and create their own unique relationship with the Almighty, who can be focused on the trivial (!) details of flowers for the chupah and the deeper issues of bringing morality to the world. And if they can recognize that and act accordingly, I've done my job.

It's really not about me... except when it comes to paying the bills.

Published: May 6, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 20

(20) Anonymous, September 22, 2007 5:49 PM

To 'Not Going...'

By not going to the wedding, you are being extra-ordinarily selfish. You care not about your childs wants and needs, you only care about your own. The world changes with every generation and with every generation, new Jews with new ways of being are born. By not going to the wedding, you are turning your back on who your child has become.

"Sometimes this helps a child to see this" - - - WHEN? When they're guilted into WHAT? No matter what your child has chosen, understand that everything that you do has meaning to them. But maybe not the meaning you intended. You're on a one-way ticket to resentment.

(19) Anonymous, May 18, 2006 12:00 AM

confusion

1.i am lost - did the article say that your daughter was marrying out? i seem to have missed this point. i think that some things are really important to some people. i have a daughter that had a plain simple wedding with a plain dress. the photographer took lovely pictures and we all had a ball. on the other hand, i also had a daughter that had a fancy dress and a fancy hall and a fancy ring [all her choice]. her photographer took all of the standard poses but missed the true spirit of the wedding. but like i said it was her choice, and she has to live with it.

(18) Annette, May 11, 2006 12:00 AM

it's not just about your daughter, it's about the whole family...

... inclucing you; and what about when it comes to paying the bills? My husband paid for our own wedding, and my dress (as like yours)which was on sale as was the one I bought for my Mum; my husband & I wanted a wedding with the 2 of us, our 2 witnesses and 'the guy' who married us! but at least 30 others got in & REALLY WANTED to share in this moment WITH us! they made it VERY clear we were not marrying without them sharing this day with us;that's when I realized that OUR wedding was 'not just about us'. Otherwise why have guests?
As for Jewish continuity... aaahh... I married a really nice Catholic man, we have 3 children, and my mother told me once in my early 30's that her mother was Jewish!!! my kids know they're Jewish, I've done what I can under the circumstances about their Judaism, but it hurts the heart and tires the mind and stressed our marriage. And I'm not alone.
Jewish sons were raised by Jewish mothers, they're not perfect either, but they are Jewish and provide Jewish continuity - what HaShem wants of us, 'nice' is a bonus.

(17) Anonymous, May 11, 2006 12:00 AM

not going to the wedding...........

Jewish continuity? ok, I hear you on this, yet not going to the wedding of a child marrying a man of another faith is not "turning your back on your child". It simply means, " Look I love you and have raised you with values that are jewish and this in turn has helped you get to this point because 133 other generations have done so in the past- This is why you are here today to hear/see this. Not going to the wedding is a last effort to let a much loved child see that there must be a TREMENDOUS reason why mom is not coming. In this, one is not turning her back on her child. Alkways keep open the lines of communication. In not going to this type of wedding you are stating that there are things that matter and THIS is one of them.
Sometimes this helps a child to see this. You haven't had the "heart"? to tell her that her daughter will choose her own ways? You mean you haven't had the "intestinal fortitude" to TELL HER THE TRUTH" . What are you afraid of? She will have more respect for you and VALUE WHAT IT IS YOU BELIEVE IN if you talk to her rather than hide.

(16) Anonymous, May 11, 2006 12:00 AM

its not about me-a daughter who wants a big wedding

dear shira
no, it isn't about you..it's about your daughter and her values...while i agree with your parenting values, i do not agree that you have to give your daughter a big expensive wedding. we gave our daughters beautiful weddings but=not expensive ones. .we explained to them that we would not pay more than-what ever the figure is that you and your husband decide is fair..that you will not go into debt-put a 2nd mortgage on your home- as my mother in law did for her only daughter-which jeopardized her retirement and did not make her daughter a less selfish person thruout her life, accordingly. you need to instill values in your daughter aboutwhat is inportant in her future marriage-not her wedding day. do not change your values or lessen your bank account...work with her on choosing her gown, caterer, band, etc. she will balk at first but respect your decision down the road. yes, it is not your wedding-nor should it be..but values and respect for your hard earned money should never be an issue. state up front what you can afford and don't be judged by money rather than love.both our girls understood and were very happy brides..now married 21 and 13 yrs. very sincerely..

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