Anger at My Son

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February 24, 2011 at 4:25 am #5514

Phx Mom

My son (Reform Jew) eloped a few months ago with a Catholic gal with two young children.  Neither attends their respective houses of worship or is observant in any way, but both believe in God.
It was my understanding that these kids would be baptized and brought up as Catholics and that any children they had together would be raised as Jews.  However, my daughter-in-law told me tonight that she told my son that if he wanted these kids to be brought up Jewish, they would be…even though her mother first said she wanted them to be baptized.  My DIL said it was my son’s decision to let them choose.  (By “let them choose,” it’s become apparent they won’t be going either to temple or to church.  They won’t even be exposed to the faiths.)
My DIL also said she felt I would’ve preferred he marry a Jewish girl.  I said I couldn’t lie, but that I loved her, and at the end of the day, choice of religion is a differing of opinion.  I also said that I’m sure her mom at least would’ve preferred a Catholic boy.
She also didn’t understand that just having their future Jewish child named wouldn’t be enough.  To be raised as a Jew is to be raised with some level of observance and education.
No, this is not my decision to make, but this has opened a wound with my son.  Once he told me Yom Kippur meant nothing to him; a couple of weeks ago I wished him a good Shabbos and he said, “Enough of that crap.”  By the same token, he flipped when I told him that his 4-year-old stepdaughter (soon to be adopted daughter) said, “Jesus loves me,” at the breakfast table.
I thought I’d made some peace with this, but I’m just angry, again.  My DIL did not understand why the religious issue has been such a big deal to us.  (Our son is an only child.)  She also said that they disagree so strongly on religion that they don’t even discuss it.  I said that as people get older (they’re 25), it tends to be more important.
He’s not expressed any interest in going to a church service; ditto with her and temple.  Now we have the heavy-duty religious holidays coming up in a couple of months. 
Other than just letting it go, I’m at a loss.

April 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm #5699

Samira

Hi there,
well I think religion is very important and it should’ve been discussed before they got married to avoid situations like this. I think the best thing you can do right now is to pray for them and may God guide us all. I mean no mother or father would want to see their children practice a religion they don’t think is right. I’m actually muslim and in Islam men can marry Jewish and Christian women, but like I said it wouldn’t be easy. Anyway good luck and try not to show him that you’re angry, just tell them you respect whatever they choose if you can.
Kind regards,

Samira

April 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm #5746

Phx Mom

Hi, Samira.
Things got much worse last night.  I’ve hardly slept.
I sent her an Easter card and even TM’d her a “Happy Easter” message, and then she sent a pix of our 4-year-old step-granddaughter that said, “Happy Easter, Grandma and Grandpa.”  Since she obviously can’t type for herself, I sent a reply thanking her for the sentiment, but said that we didn’t celebrate Easter but we appreciated the good thoughts.  This ended up in a total blow-up later, with my daughter-in-law saying that if I “offended the religion of her and her children” then I would never see them!  Also, my son said several times to me–as well as she–that any children they’d have together would be raised Jewish, which will not be the case.  It’s their kids and they can raise them how they see fit, but I was treated as though I picked it up from the air.  Once more, she said any kids with Jewish blood would STILL wish me a Happy Easter.  In other words, don’t bother to respect Grandma.  When I said I was trying to be sensitive to her faith and wanted the same in return, I got, “It’s all about you.”  

April 28, 2011 at 1:58 am #5756

Debbie B.

Phx Mom,

Your daughter-in-law sounds self-centered and seems to be trying to use her kids against you. You have my sympathies on that, but I think you need to step back and see the situation from the outside.

It’s sad that your DIL can’t understand that wishing you, a Jew, a “Happy Easter” is offensive. It doesn’t sound like you have sent her cards wishing her joyful Jewish holidays. I guess she doesn’t appreciate the “Happy Easter” card you sent, or perhaps she is so clueless that she interprets that only as an indication that you are also “Happy” about Easter. It is possible that she resents the Jewish holiday cards you send to your son and is trying to retaliate against you with inappropriate Christian holiday wishes. If I were you, I’d stop sending holiday cards of any religion given that they don’t seem to be engendering good will anyway. But then again, I’m not a holiday card-sending person.

I wonder if your DIL thinks that writing a “Happy Easter” message to you from her kids is the same as sending you a photo of the children labeled as “kids enjoying celebrating Easter”. I wonder how she would feel if someone sent her a card in appropriately wishing her (not your son) a “Happy Father’s Day”. Unfortunately, some people are unable to conceive of anyone having views outside their own background and culture, and they may feel so strongly that their religion is not only the best but the only one that is correct, that you are thereby “disrespecting” it if you don’t agree with and embrace it too.

My personal view is that is doesn’t matter whether a child has a Jewish parent or two Catholic parents with a 100% Catholic upbringing: for them to wish someone who is not Christian (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, neo-Pagan….) a “Happy Easter” if that person has already expressed discomfort with it, is insensitive. I think your DIL is teaching her children that their religious expression is more important than good manners and respect for other people. I will say that I feel differently about a store clerk who doesn’t know the religion of a customer saying “Merry Christmas”—I think that in this multi-cultural world, people should know better than to treat everyone as Christian or expect that other people would appreciate what is fundamentally an expression about a religious holiday, but it is innocuous. As a Jew, I don’t get offended by that. But if one of my Christian relatives persisted in wishing me a “Happy Easter” after I told them that I don’t celebrate that holiday, then I would indeed be offended. But I would say that in your case, if you want to maintain contact, it might be better to just think of the Christian holiday wishes as if they came from a thoughtless clerk. At this point, your DIL already knows that you don’t celebrate these holidays, but she refuses to consider that you prefer not to have her give you those holiday greetings. Whether intentional or not, she seems to be pushing your buttons and ramping up the religious fight. I hate to be cynical, but she may want to get you mad enough that you react strongly so that she can justify cutting you off from your son.

On the other hand, I think the original subject title says a lot: “Anger at My Son”; not “Anger at My Daughter-in-Law”. Do you think perhaps that your son just told you that additional children would be raised as Jews to keep you from getting upset? It sounds highly unlikely that they will raise any children Jewish or have any Jewish aspects in their home. You don’t mention any support for your feelings by your son. So I would not bother to bring that up. It doesn’t really matter whether they purposely lied to you or if they really thought for a time that they would do that and maybe your DIL thought that “bringing up a child as Jewish” just meant a single “baby-naming ceremony” and nothing more.

Truthfully, if I were in your place, I’d back off from anything remotely related to religion. Earlier, I suggested inviting your step-grandchildren to celebrate some Jewish holidays with you. With the latest events, I now think that would only be seen as “pushing Judaism” on those children. They are already being used as pawns by their mother against you. No need to get into that act from your end. At this point I’d also tread very lightly with respect to initiating contact with those children—let overtures come from their end. While you may desire contact with these children and see a connection with them through your son, your DIL may feel possessive of them, and you may seem like an interloper who wants to impose your own foreign ways on them.

Neither your DIL nor your son seem receptive to anything Jewish and any reference to anything religious seems only to be creating antagonism. So let it go. Your son is an adult. I can understand your heartbreak at finding that he spurns Judaism, but it is his choice. Why did you tell him about your grand-daughter saying “Jesus loves me”?  Were you expecting that it would upset him or were you testing him to see what his reaction would be? I don’t think the event is surprising given that the girl’s mother is Catholic, regardless of whether the mother is active in her religion. If your son lives in the same home as they do, he will certainly know how they are raised and what they believe from his own observations. If you tell him this, how can it be seen as anything but negative? Resist the temptation to try to influence your son on religious issues. I can only see such attempts backfiring.

What ever you do, do not try to ask your son to defend you. I can tell you that I myself was put in a similar position by my parents when we were discussing wedding plans. It was a horrible experience for me—it scared me away from converting for another 20+ years. They didn’t react as badly as some parents do when their child marries someone of another race and religion, but they were too wrapped up in their own feelings to consider mine. As their child, I was expected to object on their account to anything they didn’t want. Honestly, I don’t think they could conceive of my wanting anything but what they wanted—that’s the way it is in Chinese culture. Maybe it’s my fault for having not told them that I had gone to services at the university Hillel every Saturday and most holidays for three years. But their reaction only confirmed that I was right not to try to explain my interest in Judaism. Anyway, this isn’t about me and I eventually “grew up” when I hit middle age and realized that I had the right to be myself even if that was upsetting to my parents. Back to your son: Do not put him in a situation that could seem like it is making him choose between you and his wife.

You have a right to feel hurt. But this situation is certainly getting worse. Sometimes the way to “win’ at a tug-of-war is to let go of the rope.

Good luck.

–Debbie

April 28, 2011 at 8:33 am #5757

Phx Mom

The situation has become even more complex.
My son and DIL went to the obstetrician the day after I posted.  The good news was that the 6-week-old embryo was where it should be.  (There was some concern it was ectopic.)  The bad news is that she was found to be in the stage before stage one of ovarian cancer.  She also has an Rh situation and has been very ill with morning sickness.  Despite my advice–which was truly meant to be loving & not meddling–she got pregnant when her baby was just 6 months’ old, and she had developed fibromyalgia.  Now she’s supposed to be with somebody most of the day, and there’s nobody to be with her (lifting could cause internal bleeding and antibody rejection of the fetus), and I don’t know what he plans to do job-wise. 
My DIL and I did apologize to each other for overreacting, and both she and my son told my hubby that what I heard her say she never said (yeah, right).  I certainly have to have compassion for both my son and DIL, but try as I might, it’s been next-to-impossible to let this all go.  It’s one thing to say that they’ve changed their minds about the religious situation because they don’t want to divide the kids, but it’s preposterous to deny what I was told.  Yes, to her it may have meant that their children would be Jewish because they’d have a religiously-appropriate naming, but clearly, for one of these times I was in the car with him and he had her on the phone and asked her and then he repeated it to me: her kids not conceived with him would be Catholic; theirs together would be Jewish.   
What I didn’t write in the original post is really the venom when she said, “I’m not going to raise a Jewish child,” and “Maybe I’ll take all three of my children to church with me,” and “I’d only go to temple with you because I married a Jewish man,” and “I felt so uncomfortable with Chanukah that I didn’t know what was going on and maybe I won’t come back.”  My son (with whom I used to be very close but has “issues” with me since I became disabled) has gotten even nastier over the past couple of days, but clearly he’s under a great deal of stress. 
I think there are other issues here.  I was infertile for a long time.  I also likely lost another child very early in pregnancy.  I always felt there should be more than one child.  Perhaps I’m seeing any biological grandchildren as the opportunity I didn’t have to pass on my faith yet again. 
My son was engaged to a Jewish girl and in an on-and-off relationship with her for 2 1/2 years (they lived with us for a few months), and my hubby and I really got emotionally exhausted from dealing with that and with the loss of her when it went south.  We both agreed tonight that we parked our good sense when this quickie marriage happened (particularly grandchildren-wise), and we really don’t want to be so emotionally invested with our DIL at this point.  She’s told me even before this they were having problems, and it had nothing to do with religion.  They’ve almost split up, and they’ve only been married for 6 months. 
(BTW: I told my son about the Jesus remark because I didn’t know how to react or how he wanted me to react.) 
The situation with the existing grandkids is so very painful, particularly with the little boy who’s almost 8 months.  He’s totally engaging.  We’ve watched him grow since the beginning.  I used to watch the videos they’d send of him again and again with pride and love that he was my grandbaby, but now it’s only like, “What a cute little baby.”  I simply want to cry.  I’m already holding him at arm’s length.  The adoption of the girl is supposed to go through within a couple of months, and our son’s name is to be put on the baby’s birth certificate in September.  Right now, it’s just a real mess, and I’m full of anger, grief, and confusion and have a profound sense of loss on several levels.
   
 

April 28, 2011 at 8:50 am #5758

Phx Mom

Forgot to mention that they both wanted cards for all of the holidays addressed to them all: Chanukah, Xmas, Easter, and Passover.  When the winter holidays came up, I asked whether it would be OK to send the kids Chanukah presents, and she said she had no problem with that.  In fact, she put up one of our son’s menorahs in her home along with Chanukah decorations that I’d bought (sans the Stars of David.)
After the first fight over the Passover-Easter cards (see the posting in that section of the forum), she sent a pix of her eating a matzo.  Go figure.  I certainly can’t.

May 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm #5776

Louise

You haven’t mentioned exactly what Judaism means to you and how beliefs and practices have enriched your family life.  If your feelings are based in nostalgia for your own childhood, then you are not giving your kids enough basis to choose Judaism on a meaningful level.  (Clearly it wasn’t enough for your son.)  Instead of making yourself sick about what they are doing, try  inviting the family to festive shabbos dinners and holiday celebrations at your house, and speak in a non-judgemental way about the reasons you love your religion.  If you feel that you can’t articulate these thoughts well, try taking a class or two at your favorite synagogue, to deepen your own understanding of Judaism.

You might soon surprise yourself by sharing something that you’ve learned — a bit of Torah, a piece of history, and opening an interesting discussion.

If you  regularly make your home the spot for Jewish celebration, your grandkids could grow up to associate Judaism with warmth, love and grandma’s amazing cooking instead of with family  fighting and stress.  You might be pleasantly surprised by the choices they make when they are older.  Even if they don’t choose Judaism, they will be more respectful because they associate the religion with the love they have from you.

May 21, 2011 at 5:43 pm #5803

Phx Mom

Judaism is regularly a part of my life.  I worship weekly.  I light Shabbat candles every Friday night.
It has been over a month, and while my DIL and I have apologized to each other for any hurt we may have caused each other, it’s still very painful to me.  On top of it, my son refuses to speak to me–other than wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.  He says he’s tired of my religion thing, and I should be happy his wife even speaks to me, and he’s upset that I hurt her so much.  (My feelings count for nothing with him, but that’s the way it goes for mothers when their kids marry.)
Whole thing is too distressful to deal with, so I never will talk about religion in their presence.  Inviting them over for any religious celebration is verbotin.  I do not want to anger my son (or his wife) even more.  As my rabbi said, I have to get used to the fact that my grandchildren will not be Jewish. 
My DIL will be having our first biological grandchild by the end of the year.  I want to be a part of his or her life.  Ditto with the step-grandkids.  I’ve got my priorities.

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