Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2002 / 13 Teves, 5763


Am I a 'quitter'?; all-expenses-paid
nightmare; alienating brainy son


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: Twelve years ago my husband and I moved our family to Israel. There was an unsteady truce in the region and though I never fantasized that peace was at hand I could not have anticipated living the way I do now: In a constant state of fear that there is a terrorist hiding around every corner. My children are grown and living on their own. I want to return to the United States but I don't know how to tell my husband. I feel like a quitter.

A: You may be the only one bold enough to speak your mind, but I guarantee you that you are not alone. I expect that everyone living in Israel-Israelis and immigrants alike- is having a hard time adjusting to life's daily uncertainty. Avoiding public places and public transportation, submitting to body searches when going out for dinner, equipping your home with gas masks-no one would argue that this is a normal existence. Maybe it's time to take a sabbatical? In any event it's high time you spoke your mind. You may find that even in your immediate family you have more company than you think. As far as seeing yourself as a quitter, the word realist seems like a more accurate description.

Q: My husband and I are taking a vacation with my husband's parents, who are treating us to an extravagant week in Europe. My husband feels that because they are paying we need to do exactly what they ask: Have dinner with them every night, tour with them all day every day. But that is not how I want to spend my vacation. Am we obligated to do their bidding simply because they are writing the check?

A: There must be some middle ground between ditching your in-laws at the airport and bunking in with them on the pullout couch. Many a grown-up regresses in the presence of his parents. I've seen a forty-year-old reduced to tears by an off-hand remark from her mother. I don't know what your husband's parents expectations are, but surely your husband understands that he is now a married man and the same rules that applied when he was a teenager on a family vacation are no longer in effect. Surely your in-laws know the same. It's lovely of them to take you to Europe, but I suggest you clarify the terms before you get on the plane. Otherwise you are courting disaster. In the event that you don't all end upon the same page, I hear Niagara Falls is lovely this time of year.

Q: Our only child is 19 and attends the local university on full academic scholarship. He lives on campus but visits home frequently, has a job, bought his own car and keeps his grades up. He's handsome, self-reliant and good-natured. So what has my boxers in a knot? He's studying aerospace engineering (about which I know very little) and not much at all in arts and letters. I love history and philosophy, which means he and I don't have a lot to talk about. My problem is that I don't want to stop trying to direct his education and intellectual development. Last summer I tried to engage him in a fine reading list and in literate discussions, but his attitude was dismissive and uncooperative. Should I keep trying and risk alienating him, or just let it go and trust Providence will lead him to study subjects that don't roll, float, fly or explode?

A: If your son is a disappointment to you I would be more than happy to adopt him--as would any number of my friends. For the record, like you, I know next to nothing about aerospace engineering. I would be thrilled to converse with someone willing to tolerate my ignorance and to fill in the gaps in my education. Or even to feign interest in the topic out of love and respect for my son. Most parents use the following criteria as a measure their success: Did their child graduate from high school? Did their child make it to college? Did their child develop intellectual passions? Can their child support himself in the real world? Does their child come home to see them? If you haven't managed yet to alienate your son, count your blessings and lay off before it's too late.



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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg