> Current Issues > Dear Emuna

My Daughter’s Boyfriend

November 30, 2015 | by Emuna Braverman

Help! She’s given up her girlfriends and wants to forgo her rare scholarship and switch schools to be with him.

Dear Emuna,

My 17 year old daughter is a senior in High School. She is lucky enough to have received an offer to play her sport at an academically strong Division I College, where she will receive a small scholarship. Her teammates and coach seem wonderful, and she has met them and until last summer was excited to be on the team and attend this college.

Late last summer she fell in love with an 18 year-old who will go to an even more competitive university. My daughter has given up her girlfriends and spends all day, every day, texting this boy, and spends every weekend minute with him. She repeatedly mentions she wants to give up her sport and transfer to the school of her boyfriend after her freshman year. My concerns are she is throwing away an opportunity given to one in a hundred athletes in her sport, and she wants to switch colleges to be with her boyfriend - not because that school will bring her more degree and career opportunities. I am also concerned that she might not give 100% to her team. She is good enough to earn a starting position.

Although I really like this boy, I know that young people can change as they grow and she could give up everything only to have him break up with her. She would be left with nothing. How do I tell her she should live her life, keep or develop friendships with girls on her team, and if this love relationship is meant to be, it will endure the separation of college as they both do what they need to do? I want to be supportive, but don't want her to give up her dreams for a boy who may or may not be with her in 3-5 years? If they met after college, I would be totally happy for them to be together and when the time is right, marry. I am struggling.

Experienced Mom

Dear Experienced,

There is a famous expression, ascribed to George Bernard Shaw, that “youth is wasted on the young.” We so desperately want to share our hard-earned wisdom with our children and they equally desperately want to make their own way and ignore us! It helps to recognize this reality – and, if you can, try to laugh a little at it. I know your daughter’s situation is no laughing matter but I also know that if you try to interfere in her relationship, you will only push them closer together.

Luckily for you, you have some time. She doesn’t want to transfer until after her freshman year. Don’t give her speeches on why she should change her mind; she will just tune out. Instead, I would suggest trying to make a deal with her. I assume that you are paying for college and that she can’t just switch without some level of participation on your part. Why don’t you tell her that you want her to give her freshman year at college her all – to play her sport with all her energy and to apply herself enthusiastically to her studies and that if she still wants to transfer at the end of the year, you will be supportive. A year is a long time in the life of an 18-year-old and the distance can be a big factor in the success of the relationship. If you remove the pressure, she won’t feel obligated to stay with him just to assert herself or to oppose you and your relationship can remain healthy and vibrant.

As for the rest, if at the end of the year, after she has really worked hard at her studies and her sport, she still wants to transfer, then you would have to uphold your end of the bargain. Since you can’t force her to work hard, this scenario seems more likely to be successful, with the added bonus of keeping the doors of communication open between the two of you. As with all situations in life, and particularly those involving our children, we should always include prayer in any strategic plan.

Happy but Harassed

Dear Emuna,

I love my family and I love spending time with them but my children and my wife seem to think that money magically appears in our bank account and that I spend my time at work twiddling my thumbs and waiting for them to call or visit. They also expect that I should be available at a moment’s notice to help babysit or run errands. How can I make them see that I’m actually working hard all day and that, much as I love them, if they want that money to continue to appear in said bank account, I actually need to focus more time and energy on my job?

Happy but Harassed Husband and Father

Dear Happy and Harassed,

The perspective you describe is an all-too common one. I think husbands and wives tend to make the same mistake. When a husband walks home at the end of the day and the kids are bathed and the house is clean and dinner is on the table, he has no idea if that effort took 10 minutes or 10 hours! All he knows is what he sees in front on him – unless she tells him or he spends the day with her.

The same is true the other way around. All she sees (we can reverse the genders depending on your family situation) is that he leaves in the morning energized and comes home at the end of the day depleted – and that there is a regular pay check. Unless he describes his day to her or brings her to the office. Frequently the ignorance of each party leads to lack of appreciation. Maybe he thinks she has it easy staying home and she thinks he has it easy because he gets to leave!

In your situation, take a moment to stop and appreciate that your wife and children love you and want to spend time with you. That’s rarer than you realize. With that loving wife and those adoring children, you should be able to communicate your dilemma. You should be able to express to them in a kind and thoughtful way that you need some uninterrupted time in the office. Explain in (age-appropriate) detail what it is you do all day and the kind of mental and physical effort required. Describe the problems you face and the accomplishments that make you proud. And when you are home, try your best to be totally focused then so they will need it less at other times. The more you share your day, the more they will appreciate the efforts you are making on their behalf and, I suspect, the more rewarding you will find it as well. I mentioned that your problem is common and it is yet I believe that the solution is relatively simple – just discuss it. In as much detail as necessary…

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