Dear Emuna,

I am invited to traditional Orthodox wedding. The groom is the eldest son of my same-sex female partner. We have been together for ten years and the groom is happy that I will attend with his mom, who will be honored as mother of the groom. The groom and I get along well but he requests that I tell other guests that I am a family friend. I am willing to do this but this is very painful that despite my important role in his life all these years, I must hide. I am afraid that people will think it is unusual that a family friend comes 3,500 miles for a wedding. Any suggestions? Thank you,

-- Invisible

Dear Invisible,

Yes, I’m going to avoid the elephant in the room and answer only the question asked.

We have a special commandment to make the bride and groom happy. This frequently takes the form of dancing for them and entertaining them. But the form is less important than the substance. This is their day. This is the time to focus on their needs and wishes.

Yes there are some Bridezilla-style TV shows that have made a mockery out of catering to the bride – just as they have made a mockery out of the brides themselves. But I’m not talking about the caricature of the spoiled, self-centered bride who’s obsessed with the flavors of the wedding cake. In fact, I’m not really discussing the bride’s – or in this case the groom’s – behavior at all. What’s at issue here is our behavior in response to them.

There are many potentially awkward situations at weddings today – with divorces and blended families and all manner of configurations. A wedding is not the time to sort them out.

It is not the time to make a statement about your role in the family, your closeness to the couple, and certainly not about your “sexual orientation.” It is not about you.

So, of course, go to the wedding. Accede to the groom’s wishes. Since you really care about him, be happy to do what he wants and put your own needs aside for his special day – as all those who truly love the bride and groom should do.

As for being afraid of what others will think, let me assure you that they probably won’t think about you at all! But if they do, it will be in glowing terms – how lovely of you to have flown so far for the wedding. That’s certainly how we felt about those who flew from North America to Israel for ours!

-- Emuna

Teachers Getting My Daughter

Dear Emuna,

I feel like my daughter’s teachers don’t really understand her. She’s bright and talented and gets good grades but she doesn’t fit into any mold. She can’t easily be defined or characterized and they’re often not sure what to make of her. I want them to appreciate her strengths the way we do and I get discouraged when they don’t. Any thoughts?

-- A Mom

Dear Mom,

Unfortunately sometimes even the best of teachers are still human beings, trapped by their prejudices, stereotypes and perhaps lack of vision. They are also frequently constrained by classroom size and scarce resources. They can’t really give each child the attention they deserve. They can’t really take the time to get to know each child as well as they would like. They put each child in a pre-assigned box to facilitate their teaching process. They teach to the middle and some children on both ends of the spectrum – either gifted or challenged – may fall through the cracks.

This is a somewhat gloomy picture but it’s important to be realistic and to recognize one basic and crucial idea. School is NOT a substitute for parenting. Once your kids attend school full-time you are not off the hook. Your job is just more complicated.

It would certainly be ideal if your daughter’s teacher really “got” her. It is certainly worthwhile to take some time to try to discuss the situation with her. But, ultimately, making your daughter feel loved and appreciated for her unique characteristics is your job. (This is the job of all parents!)

Sometimes we do it in conjunction with the school. Sometime we do it despite the school. But, whatever her school experience, the most important thing is that she knows you love her, you “get” her, you appreciate her unique and special qualities – and you think she is just terrific!

-- Emuna

Feeling the Grind

Dear Emuna,

I've been happily married for almost ten years and I've been blessed with four wonderful children. My husband's financial situation has never been great; we've never lacked for anything, but money never seems to be enough and my husband suffers to pay the credit cards at the end of each month. As the family grows, so do the expenses. Various businesses my husband has been involved in haven't succeeded. I often find myself encouraging him and telling him that it is God's will for things to work this way, and that someday we will have the lifestyle we are looking for. The problem is that nobody encourages me, and as time goes by I'm starting to lose patience and to become desperate about the fact that business isn't working. What can I do?

-- Worn Down Wife

Dear Worn Down Wife,

I understand how you feel. It is difficult to always be the cheerleader for others, especially if you don’t feel that you have anyone in your corner. Add to that your financial burden and I see how you’re come to feel oppressed.

But there seem to be a few unanswered questions here. Do you also work? Is there a reason you can’t get a job and possibly relieve some of the financial pressure? That would seem to be an obvious first step.

Does your husband give you support in other non-financial areas? Does he help with the kids? Does he compliment you on your parenting, on what a wonderful wife you are? If he does, why is that not satisfying to you? If he doesn't, now is certainly the time to ask him to start!

You begin by stating that you are happily married. That is an enormous blessing. You need to keep refocusing on the good in your life, and the good in your husband, especially during these trying times.

Please note that we are all living in an economically challenged world. Everyone is struggling and good jobs are hard to come by. It really isn’t your husband’s fault. Additionally, as you mentioned, Jewish tradition teaches that our income for the year is determined by the Almighty every Rosh Hashanah. Once we recognized and accept this, we understand that, as long as we make a reasonable effort, the outcome (or in this case income!) is out of our control. This should be freeing and should remove all blame or self-recrimination.

Most of all, it should enable you to look at your circumstances as a challenge for the two of you to confront together and as an opportunity to grow closer in the process. You are allies in this battle and should be nurturing and supporting each other. Sit down with your husband to discuss this issue. And plan your battle strategy together.

-- Emuna