Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

My name is Tova and I am fifteen years old. I am the oldest of five children and that is where my problem begins and where I am trapped with no one to help me. I used to have friends in school but since the beginning of this school year, they all got tired of hearing that I couldn’t join them for out of school outings, sleep-overs or any such social activities, because my help is needed at home. Even my school work has fallen off and my grades have dropped because I cannot keep up with the work, study and help out at home. I also cry a lot in private where no one can see, but I have no one left to talk to about my situation and I’m stuck.


The youngest of my four brothers has Down’s syndrome and the other boys, along with other kids, make fun of him and push him around a lot so I always try to protect him because he can’t protect himself. My younger three brothers want nothing to do with him, so he clings to me because I look out for him, play with him when I can and try to make him feel good about himself.

Recently, my father lost his job where he had worked since forever, so my mother had to go back to teaching to try to help with the bills. I don’t know when exactly it began that my mom asked me to start looking after Dovi, my youngest, special needs brother, but I find myself doing it almost full time now because Mom comes home tired and rushes to prepare some supper. I end up doing homework with the other boys and preparing the lunches for everyone for the next day. More often now, I also do the laundry and put the cloths away so Mom can go out food shopping or whatever else she needs to do. I sort of lost parts of myself along this time, slacked off on my own school work and lost track of my own social life because there is just not enough time to do what I need to do for me.

I don’t want to complain to my parents as they have enough to worry about. But when my mom criticized me for the bad school report she got about me, not keeping up with my class and falling behind in my studies, I yelled at her that I couldn’t do school and take care of the other stuff at home because she expected me to do it! I could see the shocked, hurt look in my mother’s eyes so I turned around and ran into my room. Mrs. Bluth, I never spoke such mean things to my mother and the azus that I couldn’t control scared me. That is why I am writing to you just after it happened. Please tell me how I can take back the mean things I said and make it better so it doesn’t happen again.


Dear Tova,

We are living in difficult times that demand of all of us great changes in how we live our lives, so please know you are not alone. I know this does not answer your questions but it will lay the groundwork for my answers to you.

I am extremely impressed with your natural desire to chip in and help your parents through their current hardships, it only re-enforces the opinion I got of you while reading your letter. You have willingly given up much of your own life to be of help to your parents and it points out how true to your name you are. But you are only a child yourself and of an age where spreading your wings begins. Proof in point, the friends you lost contact with because you couldn’t join in with them in their social activities, is a vital right of passage into young adulthood and while they were venturing forth towards social autonomy, you were stuck home raising kids and doing laundry, skipping over an important transitional checkpoint. You certainly don’t deserve criticism, but still, azus towards one’s parents is inexcusable, so the solution presents itself in the way you need to ask mechilla. Go to your mother and ask for forgiveness. Show her your letter and my reply. I’m hoping that it will help you go back to the wonderful world of fifteen year olds, where dreams and challenges are the precursor to solid, good and productive adulthood, without missing out on any of the steps to get there.


Dear Mom,

Life is hard under any and many circumstances, but you are luckier than many in having a daughter who chose to help without being asked, but something got lost in translation. Adulthood equips us with the ability to find solid solutions to the curve balls life throws in our path. Fifteen year olds are not adults, but adults in training, and that is a very important age bracket wherein most adult skills are learned and refined. You have done a wonderful job raising Tova and grooming her to be a sterling adult in the not too distant future so please don’t let her skip this vital part of her growth process.

If the burden of caring for your children and household are beyond your kochos because you had to return to the work force, there are organizations in every community that offer such assistance, so please take advantage of that chesed, they will be glad to help out. In this way Tova can return to being a fifteen-year-old, with good grades, a healthy friendship circle and a bright and healthy outlook for the future and you will take pride in the beautiful adult with sterling middos she will become.

May the future hold only wonderful days ahead for you and your family and may Moshiach bring Klal Yisrael the Ultimate Geulah. Hatzlacha rabba.


Previous articleBuilding a Palestinian Army
Next articleDaf Yomi