Sending cards, starting problems?

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March 28, 2011 at 7:59 pm #5649

Phx Mom

This is the first spring holiday go-round for my new family.  (We are Reform Jews; our daughter-in-law is Roman Catholic.  Both of them have their own beliefs, but don’t practice.)

I wanted to be respectful of each of their faiths, so I asked whether I should send her an Easter card and him a Passover card, as well as whether I should send the kids (both are hers by blood and very young and won’t be Jewish) a card for Passover as well as Easter. 

This was her reply:

“Seriously it doesn’t matter to me! My mom will give us a card from her religion because that’s her religion so I really don’t want you sending out separate cards! I have told u numerous times religion is not a big deal! It is to you but not me or him (my son.)  I feel like you are trying too hard with this whole religion thing. And to be honest that is what makes me uncomfortable. I appreciate the thought but just do whatever you feel! Have a good day.  Love ya.”

I realize I’m being sensitive and she was just being honest, but I feel as though I’ve been kicked in the teeth.  Then she told me that her mother wasn’t going to buy him a Passover card because she didn’t know what that was!  She said her aunt “who knows about everything in religion” didn’t know either! 

She’s not sure about having the kids baptized anymore.  Doesn’t go to church there.  When she moves back to her home state, she may.  It seems all her good feelings surround her being an altar girl when she was young.

Her mom wanted them baptized (ones with our son will get a bris or baby naming), but now she says her mom wants them familiar with both faiths.  I told my DIL that thinking Easter is just about the Easter Bunny and not taking them to church for the holiday or a seder for Passover is not familiarizing them with that at all.  She also said that my son didn’t want the kids divided in their faiths.  I said I’d love my Catholic grandbabies just as much as the Jewish ones. 

Clearly, it’s their decision how to raise or not raise their kids and deal with their faiths in general.  She asked why I’d ask about this if I sent Chanukah cards to all of them as well as Xmas cards, but I told her–yet, again–that a lot of anti-Semitism has popped up during Easter, and I didn’t want to offend my son.  I also didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable by extending good wishes on a holiday that’s clearly Jewish. 

I’m really at a loss here.  I know I should simply accept it as face value as we’re getting to know each other and are only a few months in, but her words really stung.

Any experience or advice?  Thanks.

March 28, 2011 at 8:51 pm #5650

Debbie B.

I have never thought of Chanukah or Passover as being “card sending holidays”. I think that Christmas cards came first, with Easter cards being a creation of the greeting card industry, and Chanukah and Passover cards coming as substitutions for the Christian holiday traditions. But I may be totally wrong about that and I don’t meant to imply that sending cards can’t be religious meaningful for people of any religion.

My husband sends out New Year cards at Rosh Hashanah to all our friends and relatives, regardless of the recipient’s religion. RH cards may also be a copy of Christmas cards, but it doesn’t really matter.  If any of the non-Jews who receive our cards are offended by that, they’ve never told us so.

I think you should not try to ask your DIL what she prefers anymore because she just interprets it as you being pushy even if you mean it to be considerate. I suggest that you invite them to your house to experience holidays on your turf. I think it will seem less threatening to your DIL that way. A card is not actually invasive, but it does come to their home and may feel “pushy” to her.

Invite them to a seder and do a short, simple one (there is a 30 min family hagaddah that worked well when we went to a seder in which the hostess had her senile mother who could not site through a long involved seder). Make sure you emphasize that you would just like to share your family traditions with her because she’s part of the family now. You might explain that it’s like attending a birthday party to celebrate someone else’s birthday—an analogy that I like.

Even less threatening is probably Sukkot if you put up and eat in a Sukkah. Just invite them to a meal in the Sukkah. At most it requires some short blessings if you usually do them. If I were in your situation, I would invite on a day other than Shabbat and serve no bread so that we wouldn’t have to go the hand-washing ritual and the long Birkat Hamazon which could be alienating. But if you don’t do that anyway, then Shabbat might be fine too. Then it is mostly just a nice outdoor meal (hopefully the weather is OK!). Invite them for a dinner of latkes on Chanukah and light candles.

Be sure to let you DIL know if any of these are traditions that your son grew up with, so you can explain that you just want to provide that continuity for him and that you hope that experiencing it will give her an idea about her husband’s background.

If you get pushback from your DIL, talk to your son. If he supports his wife in cutting himself off from Judaism, there is really not much you can do. But otherwise, think of it as supporting your son in the same way that you would if he had married another Jew—wouldn’t you still invite them for the holidays? And take your cues from HIM, not HER. Support your son in what he is comfortable with and try to be as non-pushy as possible with your DIL.

Good luck.

March 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm #5652

Phx Mom

I always send cards for Rosh Hashanah, Xmas, Chanukah, Pesach, and Easter.  Simply a tradition in our family.

I’ve extended invitations to them for our seder and also told them about carnivals for Purim and Chanukah.  They live in the next state, so I rarely see them.  I doubt they’d even come to our seder because it’s religious, even the short ones.

We’ve spoken about religion before.  She said they each have their beliefs, but they don’t talk about them because they argue…as if sweeping it under the rug is going to be useful.  After speaking to my rabbis, I said on a couple of occasions that obviously they’re their children, but I think it’s best to raise them in one faith and learn about the other.

The email I got came out of his mailbox, not hers, even though I asked both of them.  The whole thing’s been very hurtful.  They once had a fight at our house (conducted in the bathroom, but it was very easy to hear between her shouting and his sobbing) that he’d even change faiths for her.  (I’ve never told him I heard this because he clearly could not be a Christian in his heart.  When I told him her daughter said, “Jesus loves me,” at the table, he said, “She gets that crap from school.”  She’s sent to a Christian preschool.)    On the other hand, when I wished him Shabbat shalom, he called that crap, too.

On one hand, I do love her for whom she is.  On the other–and it’s painful to admit this–I’m wondering whether in my heart of hearts she’ll ever be good enough because she’s not Jewish.  She is married to my only child, and I truly wanted to share my faith and traditions with my daughter-in-law, and I feel that at least at this point, I never will.  Awhile back I admitted that I preferred that my son had married a Jew, and she said that still hurts.  However, I suffixed that with, “Should I love you any less because you’re not Jewish?” 

The most important thing is that she makes my son happy.  I think she’s a wonderful mother and wife and a very sweet person.  I just think, though, she’ll never be accepting of me because my faith and traditions are so important in my life. 

He is adopting both children within the next few months, and I don’t want this to be a problem area for us.

March 29, 2011 at 5:41 am #5655

Phx Mom

Tonight she sent me a pix of her smiling and eating matzo.
Maybe we’re both just in overwhelm because this situation is so new…

March 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm #5667

Phx Mom

I’ve had a couple of days to think and pray about it.
This seemed to be an issue that kept growing larger and larger (not the
card thing; the fact that she’s of a different faith and the kids may all
grow up with nothing), and I asked God for guidance.
Sure enough, I felt a rare need to use a prayerbook to pray late last
night, and I came across this (from the Reform prayerbook, “Gates of the
Home”):

O Source of life: may we, created in Your image, embrace one another in
friendship and in joy.  Then shall we be one family, and then shall Your
dominion be established on earth, and the word of Your prophet fulfilled:
“The Eternal God will reign forever and ever.”

Prayer answered.

April 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm #5676

Andrea2

My advice as a semi-lapsed Catholic is to stop pushing. Don’t talk about it. Don’t hover. Don’t be so eager to please. They can all feel how big a deal it is to you and it sounds like it’s making them nervous. They feel that you are angry over the religion issue and that makes them defensive. You’re only going to make it worse.

Do whatever it was you for your own holiday (and your son will know if it is natural or forced) and invite them over for it. Do what you would do with any other relatives invited to your household on a holiday or in your household. Ask them to bring food over so they are comfortable and because they know what the kids like. Respond naturally when the kids ask you questions. Have fun with them.

It sounds to me like your son and his wife have some natural conflicts that they need to work out on their own. Maybe the marriage will last and maybe it won’t. If it does, you want a natural, happy relationship with your daughter in law and stepgrandchildren. If it doesn’t, you don’t want your son to feel that you weren’t supportive. But at this point you need to just step back and let whatever happens there happen.

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