Question: I am tearing my hair out from my youngest, teenage daughter. She is the only daughter left at home except for two younger brothers and another away at yeshiva. She does well in school socially and academically, and we are a close family. Lately she is giving me a hard time that she doesn’t want my married children to move in for Shabbos. This girl does not do a thing throughout the week. I rarely ask for her help with household chores and I don’t bother her when she studies with friends or does homework. Comes Shabbos, I need her help with the dishes, table-setting, babysitting, and cleaning up after Shabbos My boys are helpful, running errands Erev Shabbos, but she throws a fuss. None of my other girls were like this. They all helped when the married couples came. How can I help her change her attitude?
Answer: Sometimes I feel like a scratched CD. You know what I mean. The kind that keeps getting stuck over and over at the same song that you just want to push the forward button to get by the song. When I finish this column, saying what I usually say when parents complain about their teens, I will have all teenagers yellling YES! And parents will be feeling angry at me for taking the teenage daughter’s side. So this is a head’s up that if you are a teen, you will like this column, and if you are a parent of a surly, attitudish teen (especially the Shabbos and yom tov kind), you will want to write angry letters to the editor. Anonymously, of course.
I have yet to ask my teen clients to explain their obnoxious behavior without getting perfectly rational response, that if their parent would simply take the time to ask, and to hear, and to respond appropriately, the teenager usually will calm down almost immediately. Especially when the parent does this before the problem escalates into frustration and fury.
So here goes.
Did you ever ask your daughter why she doesn’t want the married couples to come for Shabbos? I am sure you did, because as you said, you are a close family and closeness entails communication. And I can bet that this is generally how the conversation went. You asked her and she answered something like, “I have to work so hard when they come.” And you responded something like, “But it’s so much fun when they come!” and, “When you get married, you are also going to want to come!” and, “But you don’t help during the week, so all I ask is of you to help once a week. That’s it. Just once a week.”
And maybe your daughter will try to protest and say, “But why can’t the boys wash dishes or help clean up after Shabbos? And why can’t they baby-sit their own kids on Shabbos morning?” (I will address those soon…)
Maybe, she is not that chutzpadik to ask the question I’m thinking which is, “If you want everyone for Shabbos, why can’t you, Mom, wash the dishes and baby-sit?” To which you might reply indignantly, “Of course I am! She is just helping me!” and even more indignantly, “And what kind of chinuch is that anyway? She is part of this family, isn’t she? Why can’t she help a little without all this fuss?”
I will stop here to let your blood pressure go down.
I am assuming that with your question, you want to accomplish 3 things: your marrieds can come for Shabbos, your daughter will have a positive attitude, the cleaning and babysitting will get done.
And all this can occur if you consider your daughter’s perspective on all this. Which is simply, “Why do I have to do all the work here?”
It’s unfair to say that she doesn’t do chores all week. If she is doing well academically, it would be safe to assume that she comes to Shabbos exhausted with the tests, studying, and homework that is required of her. That is her job right now. Maybe her friends, who are the oldests, are putting in more work hours in the week, but they also have the fun and comraderie of their sister peers which alleviates the tediousness of those same chores. It’s possible your older daughters didn’t fuss when the older marrieds came, but possibly they also had each other for company. When babysitting, when doing dishes. Also, chances are that they technically didn’t need to babysit because the younger siblings occupied the neices and nephews who came. Or part of being a sister was babysitting younger siblings Shabbos morning, so another nephew or two didn’t matter.
And if you talk about family responsibilities and needing to help out in a family, babysitting and cleaning up after the next generation is definitely not part of a child’s responsibility. That’s the job of the parent—or the grandparent who wants to assume that role.
There’s no reason why the two younger boys are not pulling their weight. Fine, they are running errands, but that’s not an ongoing responsibility as the Shabbos responsibilities are.
It’s not okay for married siblings to leave any Shabbos table without clearing up and washing dishes together with the single siblings. It’s not even okay for the married siblings to help; they need to take full responsibility for that clean table and kitchen. It’s not okay for married siblings to assume someone is going to watch their children in the morning without checking first with those someones. It’s not okay for them to leave motzai Shabbos without a backwards glance at unstripped linen, toys strewn all over, and dirty dishes in the sink.
It’s not okay for parents to want the marrieds to come and ask the single siblings to share that responsibility without involving the singles in that decision.
It’s possible that sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. A kimpeturin. A medical emergency. And of course everyone needs to pitch in.
But a couple deciding to go on vacation? Even a Shabbos or Yom Tov vacation in Bubby’s house? It’s not the teenager’s responsibility to take over the slack.
But I have yet to meet a teenager from a close family—or even a less-than-close family who doesn’t adore, adore, adore her nieces and nephews. And doesn’t really want them to move in. Even if the couple is vacationing.
She simply needs to be heard. Her space must be respected. Her boundaries cannot be violated.
Now, of course the reasons I do not have this problem is because I am a perfect mother. JUST Joking! It’s because I no longer have a teenage daughter in the house. Better yet, no teenage daughters, but a cleaning lady and waiter. No kidding.
NOTICE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BINAH MAGAZINE
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