Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I read your column every week and even though I’m fifteen, I just wanted to let you know that I want to do what you do when I am finished with school. I want to help people who are hurting feel better, I want to help kids like me, who are from a divorced home and the parent we live with most of the time is absent. I want to help them cope and grow up not making the same mistakes their parents did. I want to help anyone who is lost, lonely and feels forgotten, learn to live a happy life. This I want to do because I feel that you are so close to the people and their problems and you make all who write to you find hope. That is what I aspire to be. But right now, I’m the one who needs help!
My parents hate each other and because of this they don’t want to be anywhere near one another let alone in the same room. When I am with my mother, all she does is talk mean about my father and tells me that I will soon be of age to make my own decisions (hint, hint, that I should decide not to stay with my dad) and when I tell her that I love them both, she mocks me and calls me weak and childish. When I go to my father for a Shabbos every other week, he always asks me what my mother says about him, and when I say that mom doesn’t say anything bad, he calls me a liar and hates people who try to cover up for others. The truth is, I don’t want to live with either of them!
You may be wondering why, at fifteen, I am writing to you about my parents’ divorce which took place four years ago. The reason is that I see what these two people have done to my two younger siblings. My twelve-year-old brother is agonizing what will happen at his bar mitzvah, being the enemies they are, my parents are sure to make a spectacle of themselves. It doesn’t matter that my brother has taken to pulling out his eyebrows whenever one or the other of them brings it up. Who cares about the children? The answer is, no one! My little sister who’s ten is an outcast in her class because she is ashamed to invite anyone for a play date fearing my mother will shame her when she talks to her friends. My mother has no filter and once she starts her mouth up, there’s no stopping what could fall out of it.
The truth is, at fifteen I actually feel like twenty-five because the kids turn to me to cry, vent and ask for help in dealing with their individual problems. Very often, I feel as though I myself need someone to help me navigate this horrible world my parents created. I am ashamed to say this, but sometimes, I even wish my parents were dead in a car crash and leaving us orphans. But this would never happen as they would never get into the same care together, so the orphan thing is nothing but a moment of wishful peace in our turbulent and chaotic existence. I know such thoughts are wrong at the very least and harmful at most, but, for a few moments, I can envision a peaceful, happy existence for us three.
Can you give me some direction for how to help my siblings and myself get through to adulthood without being further damaged by two selfish, mean and uncaring parents?
There are few things that break my heart more than seeing what uncaring and hateful parents can do to their children during and, as in your case, after they get divorced. I have little tolerance for two adults who have children that they use as pawns during the divorce and make to suffer after the divorce ‘because they could not make the marriage work.’ Whose fault is that? Certainly not the innocent children they brought into the world together and now wish to tear apart and make them suffer for things they had no control over.
It is so noble of you, in spite of your own pain and misery, to want to grow up to help others in theirs. It shows me the great heart you have and, from somewhere other than the war-zone of a home in which you live, you are able to nurture kindness, love and the will to help others in spite of everything that is going on around you. I will tell you this, you are exactly the kind of person who would excel in this line of work. Your empathy in helping your siblings deal with their lot is the foundation of your ability to help others, to be able to relate to another’s pain and make them feel lighter, more hopeful and trusting in you and in your words. That is something you cannot fake, empathy is something that is either there or it’s not and you, young lady, you are the real deal! The rest of your education in helping others, the methods, the different approaches and all the other skills you will need, those will come with education, lots of books on the subject and life experience itself. Lastly, to be the great therapist you are promising to become, is the ability to listen patiently, to genuinely hear with that special inner ear to the problems you are presented with and be able to decipher truth from fabrication. Here too, you show your natural skill when you listen to your bickering parents individually pumping you for information on what the other said. You skillfully and wisely take the middle road, not picking one over the other but being impartial and truthful.
Yes, truthful! I know you wish in your most private moment that both your parents were no longer living, but in your heart of hearts… when you give it thought, you probably wish they had been able to love each other and love you and your siblings in a perfect world. Sadly, the world is not perfect, on many levels, but we must try to make it better. In helping others, we help ourselves. In loving others, we feel that love returned to us. In dreams we heal and learn how to heal others. I wish you only joy and happiness that a fifteen-year-old should have, I send you love and hope and tell you that you are stronger than you know, wiser than your years and more beautiful in spirit and deed than your parents have a right to claim was of their doing. You are your own person and you will do great things. Because I know this to be true. I am glad and thankful to have had an ever-so-small part in shaping your destiny. And I will always be just a phone call away!