I have gone out with a girl who mentioned on a date that her father doesn’t believe in vaccinating. “But he’s not the type to tell other people what to do,” she said.
[His children were all vaccinated. Apparently, his views on the matter changed after his children had grown up.]
Like my parents and most people, I believe strongly in vaccinating. As this is a hot button issue, I am concerned about how this matter will play itself out. He might not be the type to tell other people what to do, but what happens when he starts dropping hints here and there about not vaccinating his grandchildren?
The girl, who I hit it off with very well – I see great potential and was quite positive until this revelation – said that she is not at all familiar with the topic.
If the father’s stance on this issue is going to drive me crazy, let alone possibly impact me, should I just end it now? Or am I being too paranoid?
In short, although I would not categorize your sensations of disquiet subsequent to this revelation to be disproportionate or unjust, I would also not be so quick to pull the plug based only on the information provided. Correspondingly, given the relative severity of this potentially divisive incongruity, and how it may later affect your life as a husband and parent, I believe there are three crucial steps which must be taken before determining whether or not to proceed with the shidduch.
1. Have a polite, yet frank discussion on the of subject vaccinations on an upcoming date. Incidentally, as the point at hand and its ramifications admittedly lie outside the realm of this young woman’s bailiwick, I would recommend she speak with her primary care physician, and perhaps with some trusted teachers and mentors, so that she may acquire an adequately intelligent background before delving into the issue on a date.
If the result of her edification, and the ensuing dialogue, is one of harmony, that would bode very well in terms of continuing the shidduch. Conversely, should viewpoints end up diametrically or strongly opposed in this area, it may create a serious rift in the marriage to follow if either person feels that conceding their viewpoint equates to an abdication of parental obligation and the jeopardizing of their children’s wellbeing. Consequently, the goal here is to be sure that both parties are 100% on the same page with respect to administering vaccinations, and how that will be handled in the future.
Parenthetically, while this may not exactly be a typical exchange to engage in on a date, inasmuch as there is now a substantive indication that the topic may conceivably emerge as a major impasse later on, I believe it must be broached and settled before going further.
Now, before addressing any additional steps, I feel it worth noting that, in my opinion, a strong concordance with this young woman regarding a commitment to vaccinate would, in itself, serve as a sufficient platform from which to continue the shidduch, and is the most important piece of this puzzle. Ultimately, this is a parents’ decision to make, and no amount of external pressure should be able to force their hand as to whether or not they vaccinate. Accordingly, as long as a husband and wife maintain a unified front, they should be in a strong enough position to retain shalom bayis, even amidst familial attempts at coercion.
Furthermore, unlike this first step, the next steps are not matters which a couple may navigate entirely between themselves. Rather, they pertain to assessing the gravity of one’s potential father-in-law’s beliefs, and keeping them at bay. As such, and as with all things outside one’s own control, they are inherently more difficult – both in how they should be approached, and in whether they can even be definitively achieved. Nevertheless, being that the narrative presented expresses unease related to the plausibility of meddling’s by one’s future father-in-law, I believe these next steps are therefore salient, even if decidedly more challenging to accomplish, and not entirely essential for one’s reaching a decision to pursue the shidduch.
2. Assuming that this young woman shares in a conviction to have her children vaccinated, it would be beneficial to know with as much certitude as possible that her father will not prove to be an imposition, and that he will cede his stance so that parents, rather than grandparents, will retain full rights to make health decisions for their family. That is to say, he should be made aware that his daughter and son-in-law are in lockstep regarding their resolution to vaccinate their children, and that he is expected to refrain from attempting to dissuade anyone from this decision, or otherwise intrude by conveying any concerns related to what he perceives as the ill-effects of vaccinations.
Ideally, if the relationships at present allow for it, this could be done via all three parties sitting down and reaching an understanding together. However, if that is not the case, or if there is apprehension about such a conversation going completely off the rails, a competent emissary could be utilized. Whatever the medium employed, the object remains the same: coming to a place of assurance that one’s father-in-law will not regularly caterwaul against his grandchildren’s vaccinations. Provided that all involved maintain composure throughout, that there is no equivocality in the agreement reached, and that one feels comfortably confident that everyone will keep their opinions to themselves, I believe it responsible to advance.
3. Beyond the matter of vaccinations, I would imagine it prudent to corroborate the general assertion that this young woman’s father is, indeed, “not the type to tell other people what to do.” Correspondingly, if that is not the reality, the fallout and seqeula could be numerous and frequently disconcerting, as should be rather self-evident.
This involves very candid consultations with collateral informants – such as the family rav, relatives, or close friends – who can be trusted to confirm the truth of this declaration, and who, one believes, will forthrightly offer an unvarnished report that is authentic and unerring. As long as it can be established with veritable certainty that one is not walking into a situation where they may be exposed to excessive pressure from a pugnacious father-in-law who holds unassailable principles on a variety of themes – and particularly those which fall outside that which one would consider to be normative practices – I would reckon it equitable to move forward.
To be abundantly clear, this is not to say that the shidduch should be viewed as a nonstarter, or one that is unlikely to be viable. In fact, the most vital prerequisite for attaining successful matrimony appears to have been satisfied. Namely, that the two daters enjoy each other’s company, and that ample promise to the match has been identified. Nonetheless, one must equally feel reasonably guaranteed that they can contentedly coexist with their spouse’s immediate family before committing to marriage, and that inappropriate interferences will not be encountered in the realm of childrearing.
May the Shomer Yisroel see that we are all safe, sound, salubrious, and secure, and that the multitude of interconnected families in Klal Yisroel may happily and courteously share in life with one another.