Dear Emuna,

Our son is really enchanted by Christmas. He loves the lights and the trees and the presents. He likes to go to the mall and see the decorations and listen to the music. He doesn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap but he does want us to decorate our house and celebrate the day. He knows we are Jewish but he thinks it would be fun. I’m not sure how to approach him. He seems quite resentful that we don’t have a comparable celebration.

Any help would be appreciated.

Proud Jewish Mom

Dear Proud Jewish Mom,

Does your son know how proud you are? How is your pride expressed? Our children need to see our Jewish pride in action, in positive ways. Are you marching on behalf of Israel together? Are you giving tzedaka together? Are you bringing Judaism into the home?

It’s true that we don’t have a comparable celebration. He ought to feel that Christmas can’t possibly compare to Hanukkah! Telling your son that isn’t enough; he needs to see and experience it. In order for this to happen, it is important for you to understand the significance of the holiday. Unfortunately, it has been trivialized and treated like a child’s holiday, whereas it is a very deep and meaningful celebration. I can’t go into details here but check out aish.com’s Hanukkah section for explanations about the day and tips for involving your children. You can make it fun – dreidels, latkes, and presents – and meaningful – with references to Jewish history, Jewish pride and our special relationship with the Almighty.

It is our responsibility to show our children the joy and depth of Hanukkah. They may still think that Christmas lights are pretty, but the light of our menorah is the light of Torah, the light of a people who has taught the world about morality and a relationship with our Creator. Properly explained, that trumps a tree any time.

-- Emuna

Name Brand Theft/Returns

Dear Emuna,

My wife consistently buys brand name items only to return them after wearing them once. Her sister does the same. I come from a very honest, hardworking family, and we would never stoop to such a low. I have confronted her many times about this, and she knows how much I hate it, but I can't seem to get through to her. My respect for her and her family has definitely taken a hit because of this situation. Most importantly, we gave birth to a baby girl six months ago and I don't want my children to be raised thinking that this is acceptable behavior. I want my children to have an honest upbringing and to appreciate the items they purchase. I want them to know that through hard work they can obtain the items they want, but also that it isn't necessary to show off your brand names. I really don't know what to do, and I hope that this issue doesn't affect our seemingly good marriage. I just want to get through to her, and I believe this is the underlying issue in most of our arguments. Please help.

Simple and Straight

Dear Simple and Straight,

I understand your frustration. It is NOT the straight or honest thing to do. Unfortunately your wife seems to have grown up in a family that supports this type of behavior. Even if she wanted to change she would have to confront the behaviors and patterns of her whole life. In addition, she has had and continues to have the support of her whole family for this theft. It is in their interests that she continue her behavior. If she stops, they will all feel uncomfortable. So you have your battle cut out for you.

But you can’t treat it like a battle. You need to approach in the gentlest way possible. (I’m going to assume that you’ve already tried a harsher approach and told her she is stealing.) It’s a tough one. I think the best practical idea may be to put her in touch with someone you may know who owns a clothing store.

We have a friend who sells women’s clothing. He has spoken with us about this practice, about how women bring back dresses with stains in the armpits or food stains and then boldly state that they never wore the dress and expect a total refund. He has discussed with us how much money he loses through this type of theft, how discouraging it is to store owners.

Perhaps if she meets a real live person who is affected by it (as opposed to an anonymous department store), she will appreciate the damage she is doing.

This is also a chance for an important discussion about parenting. What happens when you disagree? Who gets their way? Perhaps a Rabbi or other impartial third party should be brought in if you reach an impasse.

Don’t be angry or adversarial. These are issues that the two of you need to work together to resolve. Ultimately your relationship and your marriage will be strengthened by the process.

-- Emuna

New Baby Driving Us Apart

Dear Emuna,

My husband and I are the proud parents of a six month old baby boy. He couldn’t be more delicious and we couldn’t be more excited. He is adorable and smart (of course) and the light of our lives. But he has also created some fissures in our marriage that I don’t know how to repair. Before I gave birth, my husband and I were both very busy with our careers. I had a lot of energy and was able to also handle the care of our home and meal preparation. But now I’m exhausted. I don’t have the time or energy to make dinner, let alone clean the house. And my husband is no help at all; he is still busy with his job and he expects everything at home to be as it was. I am very frustrated and feel unloved and unsupported. I don’t want our little bundle of nachas to drive us apart. What should we do?

New Mom

Dear New Mom,

There are a few marriage issues I think you need to address, but first I have a practical question. Sometimes we test our husband’s love for us by seeing what they will do around the house for us. This is a destructive habit. First of all, since you are both working, is it possible that you could hire cleaning help? That would take the burden off of both of you. Second of all, don’t expect help without specific direction. After you give birth, your husband does not acquire extrasensory propensities. If you want his help, you need to ask for it and be very specific. Don’t expect him to just notice the mess or just notice that dinner needs to be made. You need to tell him (ask) – “I’m completely exhausted; could you please pick up pizza tonight/make dinner for us tonight?” “Would you mind throwing in a load of laundry?” “It’s been ages since the kitchen floor was swept. Could you do that for me?”

You need to ask and not get frustrated that he doesn’t intuit what needs to be done. And you need to describe your days to him. He may not understand why you couldn’t get to these tasks. Tell him what the days with the baby are like. If you are balancing work also, describe your challenges. Make him your partner.

Be sure to let him know that in your excitement over the baby, you haven’t forgotten about him. Believe it or not, many men get jealous and resentful. They miss the time and attention that you used to lavish solely on them. Make sure to make time for the two of you. A six-month old doesn’t make a lot of conversation. You can hold/feed/change the baby and talk to your husband at the same time. Make sure he knows that he is still the priority.

Having a baby is wonderful – and a big change. Don’t underestimate the adjustment required and the effort needed. No parenting classes can really prepare you. Be sure to talk about it. Neither of you may really be aware of what’s happening. But with good will and good communication, these issues should be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

-- Emuna