We are going through a major crisis. Our daughter has been dating a boy for a while. The long-term plan was to announce their engagement this coming Shavuos. But now we are not sure if we should allow it to happen.
The boy’s family is accustomed to going to a hotel for Pesach every year. We usually stay home, because we enjoy our own Sedarim. This year, my husband and I decided that since we get along so well with the boy’s parents, we should surprise them and show up at the hotel they have been going to for many years.
As you can imagine, my daughter was shopping up a storm with the prettiest outfits to wear so that the boy and his family could appreciate her even more. In the meantime, she never breathed a word to him that we would all be at the same hotel.
It was a disaster from the minute we got there. When we saw each other in the lobby on erev Pesach, the boy and his family acted very cold. They seemed upset that we were there. At first, my husband and I brushed it off, thinking that they were just shocked to see us.
When we suggested to the family that maybe we should all sit together, the boy’s mother immediately said that they have the same seats every year and were not interested in making changes now. How rude!
The worst of it all was the way the boy behaved. He ignored our daughter the entire yom tov, even though they are a dating couple. He hung out with other guys, and we even saw him talking to girls and enjoying himself. He did not wear his usual black hat—not even during davening.
My daughter has not stopped crying since we came home. Meanwhile the boy has been calling her, but we told her not to respond.
Our friends tell us to not allow our daughter to have anything more to do with this boy. But our daughter is crazy about him even though we all got so hurt by what happened over yom tov. What is your opinion? Should we continue as if nothing happened, or is this a sign of who the boy and his family really are?
By Baila Sebrow
It sounds like you and your family went through a harrowing weeklong experience. Planning and preparing for a Pesach vacation in a hotel is not always easy. Aside from the expense, the need to impress the parents of the boy your daughter has been dating must have weighed heavily on your emotions (as well as on your wallets).
You and your husband meant well. Because your daughter was on the verge of getting engaged, it seemed to you like a good idea for the two families to be together for Pesach. You might even have presumed that since both families appeared to be getting along well, it would be beneficial to get to know each other even better by spending a long yom tov together. And you probably believed that surprising them by showing up without mentioning your plans in advance would only add to the fun of it.
It’s true that some families would have good-naturedly accepted your surprise if they were put into the same position. There are those who would have responded with wit and made the best of it by including you all in a wonderful yom tov.
But that was not the case here. While you believed that things should have gone over well, the boy and his family viewed your actions from a different point of view. It appears that the boy’s family felt that their privacy was invaded. They may have believed themselves to be the injured party.
While you and your family previously celebrated Pesach at home, the boy’s family customarily went away to a hotel—in fact, the same place for many years. And then your family all showed up unannounced. Your daughter also kept this big secret, making no mention of it to the guy she was planning to get engaged to. You know what? These people must have been in shock when they saw you there.
As much as you would have liked to sit with these people with whom you were planning to become mechutanim, please understand that they were not entirely off the mark in saying that they sit in the same spot every year. Guests who return year after year to Pesach programs usually receive preference in rooms as well as in seating. The addition of your family at their table might have necessitated a change in the seating area. Believe it or not, moving their table to another location might have caused them or some members of their family distress that they were not prepared for.
Regardless of how much they did not appreciate your being there, it still would have been a kind gesture on their part to suggest that you at least join them in the tea room, which most hotels offer throughout the Pesach stay. That they ignored you entirely was a bit extreme, and I can understand how you probably felt they were conveying hostility.
I am not concerned that you noticed the guy whom your daughter is dating without his usual black hat, nor should he have to make any excuses to you about that. There could be any number of reasons why he did not bring it. He could have forgotten to pack it, or maybe the crowd that attends this program is not a typical “black hat” crowd, and he wanted to fit in. The girls you saw him talking to might be people he has known for years.
If you showed up unannounced, then I say, with all due respect, that you are not in a position to judge anyone. And I certainly hope that your surprise attendance was not meant to be a convenient excuse for you check up on the boy or his family.
Yet what troubles me most is that your daughter has taken the brunt of this disastrous event. As a result, she must have endured mortifying pain.
Whatever the reasons that you and your husband decided to spend Pesach at the same hotel as the other family, you should never have instructed your daughter to keep it from the guy. He likely perceived himself as having been tricked by her. And if he is used to being seen by her in a different dress code and with different friends, then he surely felt that he was ambushed.
When men get upset, they typically withdraw and become emotionally distant. They will usually use the time away to be with their friends. That explains why he ignored your daughter at the hotel. I would feel more comfortable if he had made at least some attempt, regardless of how upset he was with the situation, to spend a little time with her. But maybe the shock of your family’s unexpected stay caused him to feel suffocated, and he reacted instinctively by detaching himself from the situation. Additionally, he had no one with whom to talk the situation over. His parents were without doubt irritated by the circumstances, and they might further have been egged on by their friends or other family members.
There is no question that all parties concerned acted without proper reflection. But I do not agree that you should encourage your daughter to end this relationship based on everyone’s automatic response at the time.
Pesach is over, and you now all have the privilege of reevaluating what went wrong and how it can be rectified. The most vital aspect at this point is to not lose sight of the relationship that the young couple—your daughter and their son—had before this fiasco.
The responsibility of “damage control” belongs to you and your husband. You should immediately contact the family and the boy and invite them to your home. Putting pride aside, apologize to them for not discussing your Pesach plans. Explain that you are not familiar with hotel protocol during Pesach, and you thought it would be fun to just show up. Validate their complaints if they choose to express them.
Chances are that they, too, regret their behavior. If so, graciously allow bygones to be bygones.
I am happy that this guy has reached out to your daughter since his return home. That indicates that even though you are considering ending the relationship your daughter has with the boy, he seems to want to maintain it. If he or his family had lost interest in her completely, there would have been no contact, so you should infer that they support the relationship, and you should encourage that support.
Allow the relationship of the two families to flourish in the direction it was headed before Pesach, and may your daughter become a kallah on Shavuos, as was originally planned.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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