By Baila Sebrow

 

Question

My wife and I are concerned about the guy our 24-year-old daughter is dating. While he is sincere in his middot and consistent with being kovei’a itim l’Torah every day, we were shocked to discover that he suffers from a learning disability. His performance in high school was not great, his SAT scores were poor, and he was a B- student in his public college.

Seeing as our daughter (in addition to our two older daughters) was valedictorian of her high school and Ivy League college, we are unsure if this boy is the perfect fit for her. While this boy has a well-paying job as an executive for a company, which he single-handedly spared from profit loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, we still strongly feel that it would be awkward and perhaps overwhelming for our daughter to be married to a boy who does not share her academic ambitions.

In the two years since we have tried to help our daughter find a shidduch, we have never seen her more eager to go on a third date with a boy than she has been with this one. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Response

My knee-jerk reaction to your dilemma is that there is no reason for you and your wife to feel any sort of apprehension, and to give your daughter breathing space so that she can figure this relationship out for herself. However, I know that you did not take the time to write for advice just to have your concerns dismissed. I think that, deep down, both of you are happy that she found somebody she enjoys dating — at least enough for her to want to go out with him for a third date. That said, I believe you need reassurance and encouragement to relieve some of the trepidation you are feeling about this shidduch.

I understand where you are coming from and why you feel concern. You have raised your children to be high achievers. And from what you are saying, they were not only successful in their aspirations, but that success also came easily to them. So it stands to reason that as proud parents, your blueprint for your daughter as it relates to shidduchim was to find her a boy who, even if he did not make it as a valedictorian, would have at least graduated at the top of his class.

To your dismay, not only was he not valedictorian, but he was also not a “great” student in high school, with poor SAT scores, and (adding insult to injury) he never made it to an Ivy League school, instead becoming a B- student in a public college. Furthering your disappointment, you discovered that he suffers from a learning disability. I am pleased that you took the time to acknowledge and praise his qualities as a frum Jew, as well as his skills at his workplace. I hope you realize that those attributes are indicative of a mature man working extra hard on himself to become a successful person.

Oftentimes, the students who did not do as well as their brilliant counterparts end up surpassing those who everyone predicted would make it to the top. Throughout history, many renowned individuals who have distinguished themselves in society were denigrated by their educators as youngsters. There is that famous story about Thomas Edison, whose teachers told him that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He sure showed them how wrong they were! Multitudes of successful people did not do well in school. For whatever reason, these people were never suited for academic success.

We do not know whether all those people had a learning disability, since in years past there was no formal testing done on students. At that time it did not matter if they had a disability or if they were just bored in school. Sadly, educators believed that they were the least likely to accomplish any academic achievement and, worse, that they would be failures into adulthood.

Not everyone has the capabilities to attain academic excellence, even those who are very smart. In most cases, the educational system has a grading policy that is based on testing. There are students who are poor test-takers for whatever reason, and such students oftentimes do not do well even if they studied hard. Regardless of whether the boy your daughter is dating has an actual diagnosed disability, a B- is not as bad as you perceive it. Besides, why should that even matter now?

Look at how far this guy has come. With companies and businesses bitterly failing now due to the crumbling economy this pandemic has caused, a young man not only found a way to keep the company he works for afloat, but he discovered a way to spare them from profit losses. He is a respected executive who is rewarded with a good salary. If you were to tell me that he was a D- student and managed to accomplish such a feat, I would still call him a genius. Your daughter is dating a winner!

Do you see why I am convinced that your daughter is doing well for herself? The problem, though, is whether your feelings are being communicated to her that she is dating a boy who is not on her intellectual level. If she is being even the slightest bit influenced by you and your wife, then no matter how much more successful this boy will become, in the back of her mind she will second-guess her choice in dating or marrying him. If that happens, you can be sure that it can reflect on her shalom bayis, chas v’shalom. My trepidation about this shidduch is how this boy will be treated by you and your wife as his possible in-laws.

You have surely been zealous in trying to find a shidduch for your daughter. Yet, in the two years of searching, you have never seen her this eager about any other boy. That tells me that she is seeing in him what she has not seen in others.

From the way you describe him, this boy goes out of his way to turn things around from the way they were. He is not like some young people, relying on past good grades, good genes, or plain old luck to get to where he is today. He knows what he needs to do to get ahead, but, notably, he has not become arrogant. His middos and commitment to Yiddishkeit are areas he is continually striving to excel in.

Your daughter’s happiness is at stake here. Whatever pride and expectations that you and your wife have need to be put aside. You will have to accept that not only is there nothing wrong with this boy, but your family would be lucky if he and your daughter decide to get married one day.

I recommend that you and your wife invite your daughter to have a talk. Tell her how proud you have always been of her, and that now she has made you even prouder. Explain to her that the biggest tests in life are not the ones you take in school. Rather, the intellectual choices and decisions made as an adult are the determining factors in achievement. Express that while she achieved A’s as a student, she is now achieving an A+ for choosing to continue to date such a fine boy.

Convey that you are so happy to see her enjoying her dates, and that you are encouraging her to pursue this relationship as she sees fit. In addition, when this pandemic will finally be over, iy’H, and he is free to come and go in your home, make him feel welcome and part of the family. True success, and that which brings the most satisfaction, is when a person has made it on his own. That generates the greatest self-appreciation and happiness, and a happy person will create a happy home.

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 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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