Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / Oct. 10, 2000 / 11 Tishrei, 5761

Tipsy teens, protective spouses,
kosher common-sense

By Wendy Belzberg -- My 13 year-old son is experimenting with alcohol. We allow our children to drink some wine on Shabbat and holidays, but we have now caught him and his friends sampling our liquor on other occasions. How do I put my foot down without worrying that they will just find another venue, outside the safety of our home, to experiment?

When my sister was 15 years old and doing her own experimenting, my father asked that if she were going to drink, she do so in the safety of our home. He invited her 2 closest girlfriends over to join the party. First he poured them gin and tonics, then rum and cokes, and finally screwdrivers. Needless to say, by the end of the evening each of them was hunched over a different toilet bowl. This approach may sound a little harsh, but my sister never drank again.

Thirteen seems a little young to be experimenting with alcohol. Is there more here than meets the bottle? Your son may be trying to tell you something, so watch closely and be prepared to read his lips. Talk to his teachers to make sure he is attending classes, doing his homework and keeping up his grades. One other thing, you may want to consider making kiddush over grape juice instead of wine until your children get a little older.

* * *

I am a grown man, but many of the patterns I established with my parents years ago have never changed. I have always been very close to my father but distanced from my mother. My problem is that my father considers himself a "unit" with my mother and won't entertain the notion of having a relationship with me independent of her. Whenever I suggest going out to dinner alone, just the two of us, he says my mother would be hurt.

Doesn't want to have an independent relationship with you, or doesn't know how? I suspect your father is a casualty of a time and generation where mother and father were expected to present a united front on all things, like Siamese twins. After years of conditioning and training, it will be difficult-but not impossible-to separate them; your parents may no longer know how to exist independently of one another. Forge ahead slowly, but with confidence and entitlement. It would be a great loss for you both if you gave up.

* * *

Recently my wife and I began keeping a strictly kosher home after going kosher-style for a few years. This move towards greater observance was at my prodding and my wife has graciously complied. The problem is that we have been inviting families over for Shabbat dinner, some of whom do not keep kosher. They offer to bring a dish or something. How do we diplomatically tell them not to bring anything when we can and do accept a dish from other families? I'm more insistent about this than my wife. What do you suggest?

I suggest you tell your friends (gasp) the truth: you have decided to keep a strictly kosher home. Those of you who do not keep kosher may bring flowers instead.

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© 2000, Wendy Belzberg