Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / Sept. 18, 2000 / 17 Elul, 5760

'My kids' Jewish education stinks', boyfriend bandit, and single mother not by choice

By Wendy Belzberg -- My husband and I were in agreement about the importance of sending our children to a Jewish day school. But, 4 years later, we continue to be underwhelmed by the quality of the teaching staff. Good teaching is what education is all about. We are seriously debating moving our children to a first-rate secular school, then finding a first-rate afterschool program for the children's Jewish education.

Have your read a newspaper lately? There is a teacher crisis in this country and it is not confined to your local day school. Teachers are not being adequately educated, trained or compensated. Changing schools will only mean you will face the same problem in a new setting.

Stop wasting time debating with your husband and start drafting the parent body in a crusade to improve the quality of your teaching staff. Join the committee that vets teachers before they are hired. (If parents have historically not been included in this process, time for that to change.) With the guidance and input of teachers you do respect, have the school implement a teacher-training program that every new teacher must complete before getting his own classroom. You could also suggest a mentoring program where new teachers are paired with well-liked, established teachers. (This is my initial response; I'm sure you could do better in a room filled with passionate parents.)

My advice: fight, don't switch.

* * *

I am a single mother not by choice. I never contemplated that I could end up divorced, especially once there were children in the mix. But my husband of seven years left me, and now I must do my best. I am fortunate to be able to work from home so I can honor the commitment I made to my child to raise her myself. More than anything, I want to instill in her the value of commitment and marriage. But how can I do that with the example that has now been set for her? Any advice (aside from "find the perfect step-dad," as my single and childless friends tell me) on how to impart my message would be much appreciated.

Most parents with children under 7 focus on teaching them not to drop their dirty laundry on the floor and to keep their elbows off the table. Either your daughter is very precocious, or you're getting way ahead of yourself.

I applaud your values, but what about the values you fail to mention: confidence, compassion, self-esteem, to name just a few. Living up to one's commitments is an important lesson, and it is clear you are already teaching that one. Another of life's lessons is that, in the real world, things seldom turn out as planned. Rather than chart a course for her, give her the tools to navigate any and all terrain.

Your daughter did not choose to be fatherless anymore than you chose to be a single parent. Try focusing a little more on the immediate impact of this divorce on your young daughter and a little less on her marriage plans.

* * *

Four years ago, I loaned my then-boyfriend five hundred dollars. We have spoken on occasion since breaking up. The amount of money was an enormous sum to me then, and it could be a help now. I had forgotten about it completely, but was reminded by a friend the other night. Would it be petty to call him (we haven't spoken in eight months) to remind him of the debt?

I guess if you could forget having loaned your ex $500, he should be forgiven for not remembering to repay it. Still, it's not like borrowing $1.50 for the subway. There is nothing petty about asking for it back--people who work at collection agencies do it all the time--even if he must pay by installment.

If you are still the least bit uncertain about your rights to that money, relay your request by e-mail. That way there could be no attempt on his part to sweet talk you over the phone and muddle your resolve.

Ask Wendy a question -- any question --- by clicking here.

09/11/00:Bris brouhaha breaks my heart, LET ME SLEEP! --- and Why can't I hold a job?
09/05/00: Righteous anger, 'dissed' daughter --- and how not to make a match
08/21/00: When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods
08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2000, Wendy Belzberg