Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your column about the “Favorite Child” (10-20) from a different perspective. You see, I am the “unfavored” child in my family.
Let me explain. All of my siblings went to college, have professional degrees and seem to be doing well financially. I, on the other hand, learned in kollel for many years and am now a rebbe with a large beautiful family and a wonderful wife. And my father can’t accept that. My brothers and brothers-in-law work and have set sedarim every day. This is how my father always did things and how we were raised. Thus, he can’t understand why I chose to be different.
My mother is extremely proud of me and my family, and of the fact that my siblings choose give us their maaser money. We are a very close family. However, my father can’t seem to accept me. Throughout my childhood, I never felt “unfavored.” That feeling came after I began living this lifestyle.
I am writing to you because my children want to continue my derech and I want my father to look at them favorably. He is a big fan of your column, so I hope you will address this important issue.
An Unfavored Child
Dear Unfavored Child,
Parents raise their children a certain way and expect that their children will continue along that derech, albeit in a better way. When children become frummer or make more right-leaning choices, parents often see that as a rejection of themselves. It is possible your father feels that way or that you think the way he lives his life is not the correct derech. Thus, his disapproval of you may be a way for him to deal with his perceived feeling of rejection.
Alternatively, it may just be hard for your father that you did not follow his dreams for you. We all say that we want our children to be individuals, but it can be very hard for us when our children follow their own path and not the one we had hoped to see them walk.
Being an unfavored child is very difficult and I’m sorry that you feel this way. Changing your own perspective may be helpful. Rather then seeing yourself as unfavored, think of it as your father struggling to make peace with his shattered dreams. The situation you find yourself in is not an easy one, but reframing may help you feel less rejected and more loved. Your father’s disappointments have nothing to do with you as a person; they are a reflection of his own feelings. Once you can remove yourself from the equation, you may be better able to deal with your father’s feelings and not feel defensive when you’re around him. This may help you form a better relationship with him, which will in turn help him not feel as disappointed with you.
If your father is someone that you can talk to, perhaps you can ask him when would be a good time to talk about something important to you. When that time comes, you can start off by telling him how much you love and respect him and how much you appreciate all he has done for you. Then tell him that you are sure he doesn’t realize it, yet you feel that he is upset with you for becoming a rebbe. You can explain that it’s his regard for chashivus haTorah that set you on this path, that you learned from him to put Torah first. Mention how much it hurts that he seems to be disappointed or angry with you. Ask him what you can do to help fix the relationship. Perhaps he will have some suggestions. It’s possible that there is something you can do to make him feel more loved and appreciated.
If your father is not the type of person that you can talk to or you do not feel this will change anything, then please try hard to work on your perception and ultimately this will help build your relationship with him. Hatzlocha.