My husband and I are from the New York area. We are yeshivish, but right after we got married, my husband got a chinuch job out of town and we had to move there. The community was Modern Orthodox, and the only frum school was a day school. When our daughter was born, we hoped that we would be able to move back home so she could attend the type of school that better fit our background. My husband looked for another job, but things fell through, so when our daughter was ready for first grade, we realized that we would have to send her to the day school. She was the top student in the class, and we were very proud of her.
When she was about to start fifth grade, my husband finally got a job in New York, and we moved back, b’H. We were always sure which school we would send our daughter to, and we tried to register her there, but they wouldn’t even take her application because of the previous school she attended! We tried another school and had the same problem. Lots of people called on our behalf, explaining that she only went to that day school because there was no other choice at the time. Nothing helped.
With a lot of pull, we finally found a school and they interviewed her, but her Hebrew pronunciation was different than this school’s way of teaching Ivrit; for example, in her day school she had been taught to say “Al netilat yadayim,” and in this school, they say “Al netilas yadayim.” They told us that the only way they would take her is if she would go to the resource room until she learned the “havarah” of the school. We had no choice, so we agreed.
Even though within a few weeks she sounded like any other Bais Yaakov type of girl, they never let her switch to a regular class. They made her out to be a special-ed student, and it wasn’t even true! When it came time for high school, no regular mainstream school would take her because she was considered special-ed, so she ended up going to a school for slower types of girls. To make a long story short (I am sure you know how these things go), when it came time for shidduchim, our daughter could not get a normal boy.
We can’t live with knowing that we failed her.
She is now almost 30. She has a master’s degree and a great job, but she still cannot find a normal boy because of the school she went to. Everyone who was asked about her said she was slow. You can’t imagine how devastating this was for her and our family. We finally gave in—she was redd to a boy who is a little slow, and she went out with him. They get along, and the boy’s parents are telling the shadchan that he wants to get engaged. We know this is not for her, but what should we do? Is it possible for her, a normal girl, to be married to a slow boy and have a normal life?
There are people who insist that the school one attends as a child will have no bearing on future shidduchim. Your unfortunate story is a clear example about how untrue that is in frum, and specifically yeshivish, circles. Because of their need to present a cookie-cutter type of limudei kodesh pronunciation amongst their students, the school your daughter transferred to sacrificed your daughter’s intellectual and academic development. Had they switched her to a mainstream level after a short stint in the resource room, that would have still been acceptable, but they did not do that.
Whatever benefit it served to keep her labeled a special-ed student, the school proved that they did not have your daughter’s best interests at heart. Consequently, she was deprived of being educationally challenged just so they could maintain their hashkafic image. Surely, the educators were aware that your daughter was a mainstream student, had good grades, and was top in her class. Not only that, but they also knew their actions would ultimately affect her high-school chances and her future standing.
Please accept that you did not fail your daughter. You did exactly what any devoted parents would do for their child. You trusted the school you sent your daughter to. You believed them, and why not? Unless someone has had an experience where they were burned by double talk, lies, and hypocrisy, what happened to your child could have happened to anyone else. As parents, you were hoping that the school’s recommendation would be to your daughter’s benefit, and that within a short time she would learn to pronounce Hebrew words the way the rest of the students did. Instead, they kept her where she was and never allowed her to progress as she deserved. You and your husband did nothing wrong. You trusted those who are meant to be trustworthy.
Despite her misplacement throughout elementary and even high school, your daughter succeeded in higher education and landed a great job, as you say. But for young people in the frum world that is not enough when it comes to finding a shidduch. Everything is heavily scrutinized, and her school days came back to haunt her when she needed to find a compatible young man. It proved that the schools she attended worked against her, specifically because she was not placed amongst her intellectual and academic peers.
Graduating from a high school known for weak or slow students automatically identified her as such. And realistically, one cannot blame those who declined her if her references also misrepresented her. And so, as your daughter was getting older, she agreed to date a guy who is “slow,” as you say. Interestingly, it turned out that your daughter and this guy share a bond. However, your concerns about his intellectual capacity and anything else that could potentially affect your daughter’s life are all valid.
Let’s talk about what you mean when you say that the guy your daughter is dating is considered “slow.” You are not specific, and it is possible that the references you spoke to about him were the ones to think he is slow. “Slow” could mean someone who is mentally slow, or even the type of personality that has low energy, as in a very low-key person. There are also people who take their time to get things done in a timely manner, which could then be considered acting in a slower way than others. He might be a procrastinator, and as a result may miss deadline opportunities. There are endless reasons why someone could be labeled “slow,” and since you have been vague, I will offer advice based on intellectual compatibility where it relates to marriage.
Some people make a huge mistake when searching for a life partner. People who have a high IQ assume that they need to marry a partner with a high IQ, too. The same holds true where it is assumed that if a person attended an academically challenging school, he or she needs to marry someone on that intellectual level. There are even extreme cases where someone who was an A student will refuse to date a person who was a B student. When it comes to marriage and raising a family, none of those things come into play. People do not necessarily have to be on the same intellectual level to be compatible. However, it is important to be on par with the person you are sharing your life with. It can be very frustrating to hold a conversation with someone who just doesn’t get it, and although in many cases the person is not considered slow, there is still no way to have a mutually satisfying relationship with such a person. What is of utmost significance is the couple’s capacity to look at life in a compatible way. Similar goals and aspirations, mutual respect, healthy communication, and enjoying each other’s company are what make a relationship successful.
An often-overlooked, vital factor in a compatible, satisfying relationship is emotional intelligence. That is what frequently can make or break a marriage. What is emotional intelligence? Without going into complex technical details, it is how one reacts to a given situation—and boy, do we all know seemingly intelligent, professional people who exhibit low emotional intelligence. Such individuals are not capable of having productive relationships with the people in their lives. I will say that an intelligent person typically can work on his or her emotions more effectively than one who lacks intelligence. So, there is a fine line between the two.
If your daughter is going to choose to get engaged to the guy she is dating with the thought process that he is all she can get, then my advice is for her to walk away now. It is not possible to be happy or to make your spouse happy if you feel you deserve better. However, if she is sharing an emotionally attuned and satisfying rapport with him, then it should not matter that he is considered “slow.” It is also possible that the reason things seem to be going well as she is dating him is because for the first time in her life, there is somebody that is making her feel smart and quick-witted. This guy could be doing wonders for her self-esteem, and that is priceless.
Hashem works in miraculous and mysterious ways, and He sometimes places people in challenging situations in order for them to be able to find their zivug, as they would not have met under ordinary circumstances. Allow your daughter the opportunity to choose what makes her happy, and that is what will make you victorious parents.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.