Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I believe that my desires are very basic – world peace and good health, a big fridge for Yom Tov and a Passover kitchen (which I feel is a must for every home). So why am I writing you this letter, Rebbetzin?
I am in the midst of having to marry off my youngest child, a son, and I have asked around to find out what is appropriate to buy in the way of gifts and jewelry. I was stunned and shocked at what my friends told me. It seems that there is a list of what is appropriate and what is not, and you have to have deep pockets if you want to be on the right list.
What is happening to our frum community and to the girls and boys who are requesting all this? I have discovered that parents will go to any length and any expense to please their children, even if they can’t afford to buy the girl or boy what he or she would like. So I wonder, if they request expensive jewelry now, what will they ask for next? Are we teaching our children indulgence and conspicuous consumption? I, for one, do not think it appropriate for parents to discuss with their children how much they will spend on them. Parents should buy what they can afford and children should say “Thank you”..
I am absolutely stunned that a boy or girl would have the chutzpah to make demands of their parents. What ever happened to just giving and being grateful? Whatever happened to good old Hakoras Hatov – appreciation, which is one of the pillars of our faith?
I understand that for wealthy parents, money is no object, but what about those of us who are of modest means? Why should we be pressured into something that we cannot handle? Why should we feel ashamed to give something that is less costly?
A friend once told me that, if necessary, she would starve for a week, but that she must take her children out to a restaurant. I have another friend who denies herself vacations in order to send her daughter and son-in-law on an exotic trip. I must say that I am at a loss to understand why parents encourage and allow this. Why do they reverse roles? Why don’t they act like parents whose role is to guide and teach? Why do they look to their children for direction? Are they so caught up that they don’t realize what they are doing? Don’t they realize that by indulging their children they are destroying them… that, in essence they are sending a message that money and jewelry are more important than kindness and consideration?
Rebbetzin, I am about to marry off my child and I feel that I am being pressed to do what everyone else is doing against my better judgement. Don’t get me wrong, I am planning to buy jewelry for the Kallah, but I resent being told how much I should spend or how big the ring should be. I feel that we must live with priorities, and young couples need so many things outside of jewelry. Instead of demanding diamonds, young people should strive to become diamonds. What would be so terrible if children would say to their parents, “Mom and Dad. It is you who deserve a gift…It is you who deserve a vacation.”
One last thought: I was recently told that I mustn’t say a word, that parents who want to be loved must abide by certain rules – “Open purses and closed mouths,” which means, “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing”… but keep giving. At the same time, however, the children have the right to open their mouths and give the parents, “What for” and then some. One of my friends told me that her children actually told her to shut up and called her a terrible name that I cannot possibly repeat. I asked her if she insisted that the couple apologize, and she told me she can’t because she is afraid that they’ll never speak to her again – this, just after she and her husband bought them a new car!
I read the letter published in your column regarding shidduchim and looking in the mirror. I
want to congratulate the writer of the letter because she really told it like it is, and very few people have the courage to do that. But I would like to discuss another aspect of the shidduch problem which I don’t think has been addressed as yet, and that is what happens once the shidduch is made.
The moment the young couple becomes engaged, certain things are expected, and it never stops. By “certain things” I mean gifts – and not just gifts – but expensive gifts. And not only for the girl, but for the boy as well. Boys have to be given costly watches, sterling silver menorahs, esrog boxes, seder plates, cuff links, etc, and this pressure on the girl’s parents doesn’t stop there.
They have to acquire the bride’s trousseau and nowadays girls today want the finest of everything – linens, furniture, appliances, and they never stop to consider from whence the parents will find the wherewithal to provide all that. Add to that support, which parents of children who learn have to undertake. Boys’ parents also have a hard time of it. It’s not just a ring, it’s a bracelet, a necklace, a watch, earrings, etc.
My child is a teenager. He is not in the shidduch parsha yet, but I am already fearful because I saw what happened to my sister who just went through a shidduch which left her totally bankrupt and forced her to take an additional job – and believe me, she was already stressed out without this additional burden.
I asked her why she didn’t put her foot down, and she told me very frankly that she was just grateful that her child finally made a shidduch and she didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize it. I think it’s pretty sad that a shidduch can be jeopardized by what you buy or don’t buy. When I was a single girl, I would never have dreamt of taking advantage of my parents. My father, a”h, was a good man, but he always had difficulty with parnassa. We never ate out – something that kids today can’t accept. We all wore hand-me-downs, and vacation meant a trip to the park or to the zoo, and yet, we never thought of complaining.
When it came time for me to marry, my parents bought my husband a tallis – and that was it. For years we lived without furniture and made do. We worked hard and would never have thought of inflicting any additional burden on my parents or in-laws. I don’t know what went wrong with this generation. Why are our children so demanding, so uncaring, so selfish?
Our Torah leaders have made takanas in regard to weddings – so today, Baruch HaShem, we no longer have to make these big flashy ostentatious displays from which only the caterers benefit. But I would humbly suggest that takanas be made in other areas as well – chossen/kallah gifts, furniture, linens, etc. I know that I’m not the only one with these problems. I have discussed the subject with many of my friends. We all live modestly and don’t have the “extras” for luxuries, and we all dread what will happen when the shidduch parsha comes around.