Dear Emuna,

My 14 year-old daughter is a little chubby – not obese but on the plump side. Some of the kids at school tease her (not her good friends) and I know it causes her pain. But she doesn’t seem to do anything about it. I try to have some healthy alternatives in the house but she heads straight for the cookies. Should I be more direct and confront her on the issue?

Her Pain is My Pain

Dear Empathic Mom,

Someone will perhaps suggest that having the cookies in the house is not a good idea, that if you really want your daughter to lose weight you should purge your home of sweets. That is not a philosophy I agree with for many reasons. Since she is no longer a small child, her access to fattening foods is not restricted to your home. If you ban it from the home, she will simply buy it herself and eat it a friend’s.

I have also seen, not infrequently, that children raised in homes with no sweets have less self-control when they are available than children allowed treats in moderation. My friend told me her own story of hiding in the closet to eat cookies and I’ll never forget the kids (now middle-aged parents themselves) who used to grab six chocolates at a time from the candy dish my mother put out for guests. Not only is it an ineffective strategy but it is not the lesson we want our children to learn.

If the teasing of her peers doesn’t motivate her, your gentle suggestions or even nagging, certainly won’t.

I am heartened by the fact that your daughter does have good friends and therefore even more convinced that you need to keep your mouth shut. She is obviously aware of her situation. If the teasing of her peers (whose opinion really counts right now!) doesn’t motivate her, your gentle suggestions or even nagging, certainly won’t.

She will have to decide on her own when and if to make some changes. She will have to find the inner will power and discipline. You cannot give that to her.

In the meantime, however, you can continue to provide healthy options and lots of love and encouragement. It is easier to make positive choices when you feel good about yourself than when you don’t. If she feels loved, supported and confident, that is much more important for her well-being.

Although you certainly want her to be fit and attractive, since you began by mentioning that she is plump and not obese, I would try to concentrate more on appreciating internal qualities and developing those rather than the external ones. This is a chance for both of you to focus on where her beauty truly lies.


Dear Emuna,

I am the parent of four children, 3 boys ages 21, 24 and 30, and one daughter, 28. The two older boys are married to lovely Jewish girls (I even have two granddaughters!) but my daughter is having a very hard time meeting “the right guy.” Not only does she get discouraged about it but I have a hard time bolstering her spirits because I get down also. Do you have any uplifting words of inspiration for me?

Typical Jewish Mom

Dear Typical Jewish Mom,

I think all mothers everywhere can empathize with your situation. There are some things we want so badly for our children (and ourselves!) that we just can’t make happen. Therein, however, lies the comfort. Whether one's daughter is religiously observant and meets her potential spouse via a matchmaker or whether she is more secular and is fixed up by friends or meets in a social setting, the ultimate answer remains the same. It is in the Almighty’s hands. You can ask all your friends for ideas, you can arrange the meeting with a boy who sounds just right, but whether they will click or not, whether they will be able to envision a future together, is out of our hands. That is the Almighty’s job. It is something only He can engineer. That’s why one of the seven blessings recited under the chupah states that the Almighty creates gladness and joy, the bride and the groom

Repeat this over and over to yourself: whatever happens is for your daughter's best.

Their connection, their happiness, is the Almighty’s creation. This is the ultimate comfort (and sometimes the ultimate frustration); it is not in our hands. We can’t make it happen, however much we would like to. Of course we need be responsible and put in our requisite effort. And if it doesn’t happen exactly when we would like it to, it follows that this too is the Almighty’s doing, that this too is good.

God has our daughter’s best interests more in mind than we do (as hard as that is to believe!) and whatever happens is for the best – for you and your daughter. It is helpful to repeat this over and over – and over – to yourself.


Dear Emuna,

I live in a mid-sized American city where there are no school buses for day school children. I have to schlep back and forth 45 minutes to an hour in the morning and afternoon every day, depending on the traffic. I feel very resentful of the time and end up snapping at my kids. I need to get out of my funk. Any suggestions?

Carpool Mom

Dear Behind the Driver’s Seat,

I heard a nice story on a marriage tape once that I think could be applied here. There was a certain place that this couple had to drive to frequently. Every time they went there, the wife complained that her husband took the longest way possible. Her husband was seemingly oblivious to her comments since he never changed his route.

Finally she decided to change her attitude. Instead of feeling frustrated, she would focus on enjoying spending the extra time with her spouse. That changed the whole experience from one she dreaded to one she eagerly anticipated.

I don’t know if I can get you to eagerly anticipate carpool but I do think it’s possible to view it in a more positive light.

We can begin by being grateful for the option of Jewish day schools for our children. This has not always been the case. In many times and still in many communities they don’t exist. We should also appreciate that we have the wherewithal to send our children there. Not everyone that wants to, can.

But most of all we can approach carpool as an opportunity to spend time with our children. It is a rare moment in time when they are a “captive audience” and we can share thoughts with them or hear about their days. Once they get in the house, they tend to disperse rapidly.

Carpool in the morning gives us a chance to send them off with our ideas, words and love ringing in their ears.

The longer they spend in school, they less time they are with us. Carpool in the morning gives us a chance to send them off with our ideas, words and love ringing in their ears. At the end of the day, we get a recap and a chance to hug them, either figuratively or literally before homework, dinner, bedtime – the mad drill – begins.

And you’d be surprised by what you can learn about your children, their friends, their teachers, their viewpoints, if you are just quiet and patient.

Yes, a school bus would be easier – but that’s more time away from you, your influence, your values, and less time to enjoy your family.