Dear Rabbi Brody:
Mindy, my 12 yr old daughter from a previous marriage, recently decided to stop visiting with us (my wife and our 6-yr old daughter). For years, my ex has tried to turn Mindy against me and her efforts I'm afraid are bearing fruit. Ever since our divorce, my ex has been on a spiritual slide; as a result, Mindy is now attending public school (she used to go to an orthodox day school).
Strangely, Mindy still wants to stay in touch with my 6-yr old (and vice versa). However, we recently discovered that Mindy has been trying to turn the 6-yr old against her mother for some time now.
How would you approach this situation? I've been trying to arrange for counseling between Mindy and myself, but her mother has not been very cooperative. I'd like the girls to stay in touch, but not at the expense of turning the 6-year old against her own mother!
I'd be grateful for your guidance. Respectfully, J.D., Baltimore
I've seen your scenario time and again amongst second marriages. It's a shame that divorcees use their kids (consciously or otherwise) as pawns on an emotional chessboard to fight their old battles. Nothing in the world is more selfish...
You have no choice - sometimes apparent cruelty is the epitome of kindness and apparent kindness is long-term cruelty. Save your money and your arguments. There's no point of going to family counseling with Mindy. You won't have an influence on her, especially since she lives with her mother. Today, your job is to show absolute loyalty and dedication to your wife and her daughter. Since conniving little Mindy is an accomplice to a conspiracy to wreck your home, from this moment on, Mindy must be persona-non-grata in your home. The real threat is to your current wife; you must show her that she comes first, above anybody and anything. As such, you will gain your wife's trust, love, and loyalty. Any good woman will repay love and loyalty tenfold.
Thank G-d, you wrote me at a critical time. Mindy would soon be having your daughter turn lights on during Shabbos. Do you want a 6-yr. old to hear what 12 year-old public school girls talk about? I don't think so.
Once Mindy sees that she can't mess around with her Pop - or with Pop's wife - she'll respect you triple. In a year or so, she'll be crawling on all fours to see you, and then you'll be able to dictate the terms.
J.D., I know this is painful, but if you're given a choice between Mindy and your wife, you must choose your wife. She's G-d's gift to you; stand by her at all costs. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that living in this world is a war, and sometimes in wars people get hurt. Remember the criticism of King Saul, who spared Agag, the Amalekite king, yet killed the Cohanim of Nob: If you're kind to the cruel, you end up being cruel to the kind. In the end, Mindy will come around. Meanwhile, as we say in the laws of charity, the members of your own household come first.
Blessings always, LB