Give Peace A Chance: It’s A Venture Worth The Gamble
Regarding the letter from the father who doesn’t have contact with his daughters (Chronicles, July 25), I think there might be another side to this story. While you are correct in saying that parents should never make the children pawns in their ongoing battle, many times it’s a parent who causes the child to turn against him or her.
I have known cases where a parent uses the visits with the child to constantly bad-mouth the other parent. Even when the child is uncomfortable and asks the parent to stop, the hurtful lashon hora continues to assail the youngster. Is it then any wonder that when this child is older he or she no longer wants to have anything to do with that parent?
And while you are absolutely correct about the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v’Em, when unable to respect a parent, we are advised to move away from him or her so that we do not violate that commandment.
Perhaps real justice is on the side of the father, in which case your answer is appropriate, but perhaps it is the actions of the father himself that has distanced his children – in which case he should do a cheshbon ha’nefesh and the children should be commended for finding a way not to be in violation of the commandment.
Seen Both Sides of the Coin
All sorts of scenarios involving domestic unrest and upheaval are sadly a part of our existence, and far be it from us to judge who deserves and who does not deserve to be hurt. Moreover, the father who wrote the letter in the column you refer to indicated that he hasn’t had any communication with his daughter since he divorced her mom and the child was twelve. This would have placed him in an unlikely position to influence his daughter one way or another. If anything, it seems more plausible that her mother whom she lived with would have had the chance to sway the children against their father.
Whether that actually happened or not is anyone’s guess, but it is long in the past and the child, now a grown woman, seems to be denying herself the chance to re-acquaint herself with her father and to form her own opinion of him.
While a young child cannot be blamed for falling under the influence of a parent, as an adult he or she should be mature and astute enough to ascertain that a feuding husband and wife who didn’t see eye to eye on anything could have easily – consciously or unconsciously – conveyed their animosity for one another to their hapless children.
In Yiddish there is a saying – einredenish is ehrger vi a krenk (delusion is worse than an illness). These girls seem to be suffering from such delusion, to the point of foolishly denying themselves the gratification that comes from family unity. If she (the older) hasn’t seen or spoken to her father since she was a child, she can’t possibly know him well enough to dislike him or to have come to any rational conclusion about him. The least she can do is give him a fair chance to prove himself worthy of being accepted into the family as a father and grandfather figure.
As we all know, there are two sides (often three) to every argument. Must the father resort to heaping blame on his ex to settle the score and to curry favor with his children? This father does not wish to go that route; the “blame game” is distasteful to him (as it should be), though he’d surely have plenty to say from his standpoint.