As parents, what should we ask our son after a date? How much information do we have to know?
We wish to note that it seems that as a result of fatigue, his mood after a date doesn’t necessarily reflect his feelings of the date itself.
Your insight is appreciated.
While the subject matter of your question is of a highly fundamental and important nature, given only the narrative provided, I find it challenging to provide a truly personal response.
What a parent should be asking their son or daughter after a date, and how much information they should be gathering, is very much dependent on a great many factors. Are we talking about a single of 21, or 25; are they returning from a first date, a fourth, or a seventh; are they of a generally succinct and laconic nature, or more verbose and effervescent; does he or she have others with whom they are working through dating, or is it primarily through their parents; are they known to be capable of making smart decisions through mostly internal processing, or do they need more talking it through with confidants…?
In approaching post-date debriefing, a parent must factor in all of the above, along with their knowledge of the nuances of their son or daughter’s techunas hanefesh.
With that in mind, there are a handful of overarching ideas which I think can be applied in most scenarios, and I believe that what a parent should be looking to understand after a date are the following simple, yet vital, pieces of information:
In general, how did the date go? Was it fun, boring, enjoyable, miserable, relaxed, tense, a mixture of everything … (hint, there are no wrong answers).
Do you find yourself able to converse easily with this person?
Have you discussed matters of substance, and are you able to disagree about such matters in a healthy and productive matter?
Do you see potential in the shidduch on the interpersonal, hashkafic, and derech hachaim levels?
Are there any significant inyanim that concern you or give you pause?
Based on the information gleaned, a parent must then reflect upon whether or not it appears that the shidduch is providing that which is needed, based on their son’s or daughter’s needs and personality. Additionally, if one begins to notice, based on these post-date conversations, that as the shidduch progresses their son or daughter appears to be considering concessions on matters which have thus far been important to them, it must be gauged whether they are doing so for the right reasons or the wrong ones.
It must also be noted that the goal here is to help one’s child discern if a shidduch is right for them, not if it is right for the parents. Whether the parents feel enthralled or un-thrilled, it is moot if the single feels otherwise, and the point of contention is entirely subjective. So much so, that a parent must maintain constant vigilance in not speaking poorly about a shidduch their child is enjoying, or visa versa, when it is purely a matter of difference of opinion. A parent has no more right to wreck a shidduch than does anyone else, and knowing when to remain silent is of the utmost importance.
As well, it is usually unimportant to know the specifics of the conversations which occurred on the date. It is nearly impossible to recall every nekudah that was touched on over the many hours of a date, and it is onerous for singles to have to rehash what they do recall – whether it be moments after just having had the conversation on the date itself, or even days later. The goal is simply to ascertain the overall feeling and progress, based on the snippets and generalities provided, and if there are any objective concerns of magnitude.
Lastly, and relating to the closing note of the question, as you correctly stated, daters may arrive home utterly spent and exhausted, even after an excellent and productive date, and that is perfectly normal. There should be no expectation that after good dates singles will swoop through the front door, whimsically whistling and waltzing away.
Young men and women need space to decompress after a date. It takes time. For many singles, it is not until the next day – after they have rested and begun to process their thoughts and feelings – that they are ready to talk about the date. Of course, parents are eager to know how the dates are going, and any caring parent wants to, and should, feel assured that their child is not erring in this life-altering process. But it is crucial to allow the information to flow naturally and unforced.
As such, the most efficient mehalech to garner the information necessary is to do so comfortably, through open and relaxed conversation. One should not be grilling their son or daughter with magisterial, rapid-fire questions, followed by exegetical interpretations, inferences, and yet more pointed questions. Such a strategy will most likely lead to apathy towards the conversation on the single’s part, terse and indurate replies, and the vapid recital of rather meaningless platitudes.
A soft opener asking how the date went, along with other similarly general questions – such as those aforementioned – with an allowance for tangential sidebars along the way, will most often provide the requisite information, and more, without the single person having felt interrogated or browbeaten. The less one’s child feels judged and microscopically examined, the more they will share.
May Hashem, Hasam peh l’adam, see that it is mikuyam in you that with which we bless our children on erev Yom Kippur. Eineichem l’noichach yabeitu, peichem yidaber chochmos, v’leibchem yehege aimois. May this lead to your son’s clearly communicating all salient matters with you after his dates, and may that clarity lead to the making of astute decisions throughout his dating.