Dear Emuna,

My 10 year-old son and his friends want to cross a very busy street together on their way home from school and sometimes stop for ice cream. I’m very nervous about it but he says that the other mothers “let.” Am I being over-protective? What should I do?

(Don’t want to be) Overprotective Mother

Dear Protective Mother,

The first thing you want to do is call the other mothers. It is very rarely true that all the mothers let. Be a little skeptical. And just in case this is the exception, be open. Listen to the reasoning of the other mothers. Maybe you need to change your rules. Be flexible.

There is never a good time to let go. It is hard whatever the age and the exact age is, frankly, a little arbitrary. At some point (and I think 10 is a good age) we do have to. We need to give our children a little freedom (as hard as it is for us). We need to support their growth and their desire for independence. They are in training for adulthood and we do not want to limit their growth. It will always be hard and nerve-wracking (You think this is bad; wait until they start driving!) but, in the end, we don’t really have a choice. If we want healthy children, we need to give them a little space and a little age-appropriate freedom. We will oppress and destroy them otherwise.

It’s time for a little trust and a little prayer. In Jewish understanding, you are allowed to take risks that are commonly accepted – such as crossing a street (bungee jumping, no). This is definitely one of them and an opportunity to reinforce the idea that everything is in the Almighty’s hands (which is easier said than done).

Dear Emuna,

I am a working mother of young children. I am often overwhelmed and exhausted by all my responsibilities. My question is how hard I should push myself to give to my husband. A few examples – He appreciates a good supper; however I often don't have the time to prepare a nice supper for him. He loves to have his students over for Shabbos meals; however it is challenging for me to cook, serve, and clean up. I would love to create the best marriage possible and understand that he must come first. However, I find that the day- to-day reality between work and taking care of young children does not allow me to give him as much as I would like to. Any insights?

Overwhelmed Wife

Dear Overwhelmed,

Everyone is overwhelmed these days. We are all too busy with too many responsibilities. The question is which ones are optional and which ones mandatory. This is a question you need to ask yourself. You say that you understand that your husband comes first. Does your schedule attest to that? I need a little more information to answer fully. How many children? How old? What kind of job? Where? Are you dependent on your income? How many hours do you work? Without these crucial bits, it’s hard to figure out how to help.

I would however second your insight that your husband comes first. If you can take time away from job, from your children’s busy extra-curricular schedule, from some of your community activities (if you have any!) to give to your husband, then you should. A nice supper seems like a basic commitment. Can you throw something in the crock pot in the morning? Can you cook and freeze on Sundays or in the evenings? Can you hire any after-school help with the kids that will allow you to greet your husband in a more relaxed frame of mind? Can you hire some cleaning help for those Shabbos meals?

I’m not saying that these are the exact answers to your dilemma; I am however suggesting that you have to think creatively to make these things happen and to focus more on your marriage. You have to be open to new ideas. None of what I mentioned was so radical but you have to consider changing your schedule or your pattern or your habits.

It won’t be easy but if it’s what we really want, we can make it happen. The secret lies in the determination and commitment (and an assist from the Almighty!).

Dear Emuna,

My husband is very close with his sister. She is a nice person and means well. The problem is that she loves to gossip. When she gets together with her friends, it is their favorite pastime. She often invites me to participate in her social gatherings and while I appreciate the invitation I don’t really want to be a part of those conversations. I can’t always say no or it will hurt her feelings. What should I do?

Trying to Keep My Mouth Zippered

Dear Sensitive Speaker,

This is a tough situation but not an uncommon one. Most of us certainly face that dilemma at some time or another in our lives, although probably not with the same frequency that you are. It is true that you can’t always say no to your sister-in-law without causing problems in the family. You also don’t want to complain to your husband about her behavior, not only because it’s also lashon hara (gossip) (!) but because you will put him in an awkward position. That leaves basically one solution, a solution that is effortful and puts the onus on you. In anticipation of a visit to your sister-in-law you need to prepare topics of conversation, games and other activities to distract everyone from their usual bad habit.

Yes, it means that every time the burden is on you to make sure the conversation is elevated (or at least not negative) and to create a fun and wholesome atmosphere. It’s frustrating to have to take that responsibility but you have the opportunity to lift everyone there to a new level of interaction. That should be an exciting motivation!