Anat Gopstein, her latest column September 2, 2020, in the Shabbat weekly Gilui Da’at
The Red Line
Anat Gopstein, psychotherapist and parent facilitator
She was with us in the emergency apartment years ago. A sweet, sensitive girl. We had a special connection, I loved her. She was a confused, mainly innocent teenage girl, without a backbone. She didn’t know how to stand on her own two feet, she didn’t know how to say no, she was a girl who wanted to please. In her first years, that was fine, but as she emerged into adolescence, it started to get risky. And there was somebody who took advantage of that. In such a complicated world, one has to know how to set limits.
Sometimes I ask girls what their red line is, that they will never cross. They haven’t always thought about that. Every child needs a limit in his life, just like on a road: Warning signs, directional signs. Setting limits builds up character. The parents teach the child how to behave in the world. When the child doesn’t listen and breaks down limitations, at first the parents are under pressure, and they preach to him.
But when the child does not listen, the parents are liable to get discouraged. “He just doesn’t listen, so it’s better we don’t talk about it”. They don’t get into an argument with him.
Parental leadership is tested right at the difficult moments. A parent is a beacon, a leader for a whole life. The voice of a parent orients us, goes with us all of our lives, and even when the parents are no longer alive, their voice echoes and influences our choices. The parent is the child’s conscience.
When this girl broke the boundaries, the parents did not get discouraged with her, but continued to place limits on her. Even when she did the worst thing of all and didn’t listen, they understood that they can’t catch her against her will, they did not throw her out and didn’t give up on her. They stated their piece, explained and showed commendable parental leadership and authority.
When they turned to us, on the brink of despair, and told us that she has a relationship with an Arab 20 years her senior, I spoke with the girl and suggested she come to Lehava’s emergency apartment. “It’s worthwhile to you to try to get to another place and figure out a new path in life. If not for yourself, at least for your parents. A new location is an opportunity to make a change.”
She came to the emergency apartment to rehabilitate herself and move forward in life. This was not easy for her, but she made an effort. There was a great rapport between us. She had difficult moments, but like her parents, she didn’t get discouraged by them. We believed in her, that she was capable of rising up, cutting off the dangerous relationship and rebuilding her life. And she did it in a wonderful way. After a time, she returned home, she wanted to be close to her parents. We kept in touch with her and her parents. She came to visit us often and updated us that she has a Jewish boyfriend.
At her wedding, we were so excited for her, as if she were our daughter. This week, we were close to her home, so we hopped over for a visit with her. We sat together and brought up memories. “I made problems for you”, she said, “but in spite of that, you didn’t get discouraged with me. What made you believe in me, that I’m capable? That I would open my eyes? That I would see that that relationship was dangerous for me? That I would leave the goy, marry a Jew?” “I learned from your parents”, I told her. “I was so impressed by them. Your parents didn’t give up on you, and that’s what saved you.”
Love for and belief in the goodness of the child are challenged in the most difficult and challenging moments. Even when they got angry at her and worried about her, they reproved her with a lot of love. Even when the girl went grazing in foreign fields, they remembered her for the grace of her youth. They showed love and over-concern towards her, and that’s what brought her back home.