Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / Oct. 24, 2000 / 25 Tishrei, 5761

Let him enlist?, 'My son the actor'? Eating with the 'help'

By Wendy Belzberg -- My son is a junior at Bar-Ilan University. For the past several weeks he has been calling daily to tell me he wants to enlist in the Israeli army. As the situation in Jerusalem worsens many of his friends have been have been called up to fight. Should I fly to Israel and bring him home?

The correct answer to your question is: No, you should not fly to Israel and force your son to come home. The real answer, however, is that if it were my child who wanted to enlist, I don't know what I would do.

You know that if you let your son enlist, you could lose him. You also know that, even if you prohibit him from enlisting, while you would have the immeasurable comfort of knowing he is alive, you could still lose him. Your son is 20 years old, not 12. Legally he can do whatever he wants. Avoid the daily phone calls, fights and anger, and write him a letter saying what you need to say. And before you have finished writing that letter, grant him permission to do what he needs to do. The fact that you can even present a case is a luxury the mothers of Israeli soldiers do not have. For Israeli mothers and sons there is neither any such dialogue nor any such dilemma.

* * *

I've accepted the fact that my son doesn't want to be a doctor or a lawyer, but an actor? How hard can I come down on him about choosing a different career path?

What would have happened if Issur Danielovitch or Bernard Schwartz's mothers had pressured their children to pursue different career paths? Where would we be without Kirk Douglas or Tony Curtis? You do not want to be the one responsible (if only in his mind) for robbing your son of his dreams.

On the other hand, I've met fifty year-old struggling actors without a credit to their name. Can your son claim to have made any progress: has he gotten an agent, extra work, a walk-on part, a guest shot? I assume that if he were a series regular this would not even be an issue for you. Talk to your son about considering a deadline by which he will either have broken through, or will be willing to move on. If you are in the business of subsidizing your son, you are entitled to set a deadline for when your financial aid expires; you cannot tell your son to change careers, but you can decide not to support the one he has chosen.

Good luck. I hope for all of your sakes that you happen to have a successful family business where nepotism is the norm.

* * *

I hired a baby-sitter to help with our two young children at bath and meal times. I prefer to eat dinner alone with my children, but I don't want to hurt the baby-sitter's feelings. Also, I don't want my children to think that "we don't eat with the help." I'm willing to compromise, but my husband is not. When he does make it home in time to eat with the children, he will not sit down if she is at the table. What should I do, and what would I say to the baby-sitter and the children?

For the future, it is always best to outline the job description in the very first interview. There is nothing wrong with saying that you and your husband are both very busy, that you feel as if you never have enough time alone with your children or with each other, and that you prefer to eat your meals as a family. If the baby-sitter doesn't like the terms, she doesn't have to take the job. The same truthful explanation will work for the children. If you invite the baby-sitter to eat with you when your husband is not home, but not when he is, the only conclusion she can draw is that your husband doesn't like her. Honesty and consistency will prevail.

But since you obviously failed to say any of this before you hired your baby-sitter, it's not too late to sit down with her now and say it. And if she doesn't like it, it's not too late for her to quit.

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© 2000, Wendy Belzberg