Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2001/ 2 Tishrei 5762

Secular servants; Time to tie purse strings?; dog breath --- literally!

By Wendy Belzberg -- I hired an Israeli au pere, Shulamit, to help with our four children. We have become her surrogate family and my children are learning to speak Hebrew, which is very important to me. Shulamit has no religious feelings and has never gone to shul during the High Holy Days. Without her help during the holidays, I cannot go to shul. Is there anything wrong with asking Shulamit to work if she isn't going to go to services anyway?

A: You are on the wrong track here: rather than take advantage of Shulamit's secular orientation, you should take this opportunity to introduce her to a missing part of her heritage. If you cannot find another appropriate sitter and will be unable to attend services anyway, why not invite her to go in your stead with those of your children old enough to attend. Or, trade off with her. You may compensate her with honey cake and tzimmes, but paying her to work on Yom Tov is out of the question.

My daughter is going off to college. My husband and I are paying her tuition, and her room and board. We are in a position to pay for all of her other expenses as well, but we can't decide if that is the right thing to do. Do you think we should make her get a part-time job to pay for her out of pocket expenses?

A: Where I come from, a mother and a father sit down when their children are still young and discuss their approach to family finances. Also where I come from, by the time children become teenagers they are well-versed in matters financial: they are receiving allowances, have summer jobs or, at the very least, have had frank conversations with their parents about the luxury of not having to work during the summer. In other words, they know something about financial responsibility, and what is expected of them.

The decision you make should be consistent with the way you have raised your child for the past 17 years. If you have never expected her to earn her own money, the first semester of college is not the time to change the ground rules. Such a request now would seem arbitrary and punitive. If, however, your daughter has contributed financially in the past and has proven that she can make the grade and hold down a part-time job, the precedent has been set. If you and your husband have never communicated a philosophy about the financial values you wish to impart to your child it is late--but hopefully not too late--to start.

It bothers me very much that my significant other constantly allows her dog, a male poodle, to kiss her on the mouth and lips. Is this habit unhealthy? I give my girlfriend a lot of affection and I have told her how I feel. What should I do? (For the record I also love the dog, Dusty, a lot).

A: Are you a man threatened by a rival male (even though he is a beast) or a gay woman troubled by the fact that your girlfriend is flirting with a male dog? Either way, be thankful if your only significant rival is a dog.

According to my local veterinarian, the bacteria content is much worse in human saliva than in dog saliva. The only disease transmitted via a dog's mouth is rabies-communicable only through a bite, and extremely rare in dogs. A human kiss (not to mention a bite) can transmit herpes and other less serious illnesses such as strep throat and cold sores. Your significant other could argue that it is safer to be licked by a dog than to be kissed by a man. On the other hand, if you cannot roll over on this one, it may be time for your friend to fetch a new amour.

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© 2001, Wendy Belzberg