Letting My Daughter Go
When my daughter got married at 20, I worried she was too young. But I was the one who wasn’t ready.
“I can do that and be married, too,” Emily assured us.
Married? The word lodged behind my ribcage. “Who said anything about marriage?” I asked desperately.
“Mom, did you think I was dating just for fun?”
And what would be so terrible about that? “How about to get some experience, to see who is out there—”
“And I found him!” Emily said. “How was I supposed to know it would happen that fast? It could have taken another five years.”
“You’re barely 20.”
“Yes, Mom, I know.”
We tried talking sense into her, at least what we thought made sense. You really haven’t known him long enough. How can you support yourselves? We can’t afford to make a wedding now. Don’t you want more time with your brother and sister? We got married at the sensible age of 26. You’re both too young! Every concern or objection her father and I raised, Emily countered with her practicality and natural optimism.
“Mom, I know this wasn’t on your timetable,” Emily said calmly. “I can appreciate how hard it must be for you.”
Oh, so it was my problem.
“OK,” I said, catching my breath and trying another tactic. “So, how about getting engaged, but waiting a year before getting married?” Or two.
“Mom, do you know how hard that would be?”
I stared at her. And then I got it. Emily and Michael were following the halachic dictum of no touching until they stood under the wedding canopy. How could I have forgotten? And what could I say to that?
“Besides,” she continued, “who wants to be in limbo? We want to start our life together. Sooner than later.”
My mouth went dry. “How soon?”
I wish I could say I was thrilled when Emily and Michael officially announced their engagement; everyone else seemed to be. Well-meaning friends offered comments like: “You’ll get to be a young grandmother,”or “Count your blessings, so-and-so is 30 and still looking.” None of this made me feel better. For one thing, it wouldn’t trouble me if Emily got married at 30. And becoming a bubbe—oy vey—was the last thing on my mind; I still had two teenagers at home. The truth is, I am a slow adapter and resistant to change; the idea of becoming a mother-in-law, much less a young grandmother, sent me into a tailspin. I wasn’t anxious to acquire a new set of relatives, either; I was pretty consumed with the ones I already had.
Before I could say “mother of the bride,” there I was toasting l’chaim, breaking a plate with Emily’s future mother-in-law, my home filled with smiling guests clapping and singing for the chossen and kallah. Amid all the mazel tovs, I couldn’t rid myself of the disappointment gnawing at my heart. I felt thrust into a role I wasn’t ready to play. And I didn’t want to share my daughter with a boy I barely knew. I wanted more time with her. Just her.
I feared the changes marriage would bring to our relationship. Emily and I not only shared a close bond, but we were also business partners at the magazine. Even while she was in college, we talked just about every day. Raising a kid who’s also a CEO is both exhilarating and exhausting. I had been with my daughter every step of the way on her entrepreneurial journey—accompanying her to media interviews, driving her to speaking engagements, editing magazine articles, helping with promotion, trouble-shooting, number crunching, and listening to her dreams and plans for inspiring Jewish girls to creativity and leadership. And she never stopped, never gave up, all through her teenage years. How would my future son-in-law fit into this dynamic?
But the decision had been made, and there seemed nothing left to do but surrender. I loved my daughter and wanted to make her happy, even if I wasn’t. So, I put aside my writing projects, parked my emotions, and threw myself into full-scale wedding-planning mode. The timetable seemed as crazy as the engagement itself: four months. “Don’t worry, Mom, I can help you,” Emily assured me. Of that, I had no doubt. I just wasn’t sure I would survive it.
Emily and I managed to avoid the dramatic conflicts one often hears about in wedding planning. Our differences centered around certain religious customs: how high the mechitza on the dance floor should be, what kind of music the band would play, and the wedding procession itself. During this stressful time, Michael’s parents offered incredible support. If there is a bashert for in-laws, they certainly fit the bill. They were in love with my daughter and in awe of her accomplishments. Michael’s mother’s positivity rivaled Emily’s. “Those two kids are going to do amazing things together. I just know it,” she gushed, no doubt sensing my trepidation. “Just embrace them. Think how blessed we all are.” Michael’s father assured my husband and me that we needn’t worry at all about Emily. She was in great hands. Having heard enough horrible in-law stories, my husband and I indeed felt blessed.
“Dr. Price is going to question your mental state when she hears the news,” I said to Emily, half-joking, en route to her yearly physical. The irony of accompanying my engaged daughter to the pediatrician just about did me in. As I sat in the waiting room, surrounded by moms with dozing infants, I remembered how this pediatrician had once reassured me that my precocious preschooler was a normal kid: “As long as Emily seems happy, knows how to play, and has friends, you have nothing to worry about, Mrs. Krieger.”
Now what would the doctor say?
Turns out, she was fine with it. Dr. Price just wanted to make sure Emily had actually met her fiancé.
“See, Mom? Not everyone thinks like you do,” Emily said on the drive home. “I’m not the typical 20-year-old.”
Tell me about it.
I figured that with the wedding a few weeks away, now would be a good time for The Talk. I asked her outright if she had discussed family planning with the doctor.
“Mom, can we not talk about that?”
Firgun is the ungrudging pleasure one takes in another’s good fortune, and there’s no English word for it