Dear Emuna,

I promised myself that I wouldn’t use television as a babysitter for my children – in fact, we don’t even own one. And it’s not just because of the questionable moral value of what is aired. I also don’t like the fact that it encourages passivity and lack of creativity. But even though we don’t have a television, we do have a computer and everything is available online these days. It is so tempting to snatch a little alone time or cooking and cleaning time by letting them watch the occasional Barney-style show. Am I a bad mother if I let my kids do this?

Need a Rest

Dear Tired Mom,

Far be it from me to decide who is a good mother and who, God forbid, is not. I certainly think you are correct to be wary of television’s influence and to try to limit your children’s exposure. But I also think that the occasional indulgence of their desire to watch something (one of my grandsons is a big “Fireman Sam” fan) or your desperate and compelling need for some peace and quiet that prompts you to show them something appropriate shouldn’t be accompanied by self-flagellation, agony and guilt.

The challenge – as with all of our physical drives – is not to overindulge. It’s so easy to say “Just a few more minutes”. “Just one more video” so you can finish your phone call, your work project or making dinner. You need to be on the alert to this temptation and nip it in the bud. Better to encourage independent play in our children. But like I said, no need for guilt. The (very) occasional viewing won’t hurt and there is no price you can put on a mother’s sanity.

“I’m So Fat!”

Dear Emuna,

My daughters are constantly talking about how fat they are. They actually are not overweight and I’m really tired of their obsession with their looks and even more tired of hearing about it. What do you think I should do to stop this?

Weight Watcher Mom – Not

Dear Concerned Mom,

What do you think you can do? Let me share with you a few fundamentals. The first is about teenagers. Adolescents are obsessed with their looks. They’ve never met a mirror they haven’t examined their face in. Their weight and other aspects of their physical appearance are on their mind 24/7. You can’t prevent that.

Despite our best efforts to keep “fat” out of their vocabulary, it will seep in. They’ll hear it at school or at the gym. They’ll see it in magazines when they go to buy groceries. We are surrounded by it. You can’t prevent their hearing it.

The best thing for you to do is have a large supply of healthy snacks in the house and make sure the meals are healthy.

Speak to them about body image. Speak to them about being seen as a body or a soul. Teach them that the outside is a reflection of the inside, and then move on. They’re obsessed enough as is.

Focusing on it – even in an attempt to settle their minds – will only deepen their obsession. Build your relationship around other subjects and firmer ground.

Passover and Pulled Apart

Dear Emuna,

I’m very excited that the whole family will be together for Passover – the kids, grandkids – the whole mishpacha! And I’m very grateful too. But I’m feeling a little guilty that it’s not all pure joy. I’ve discovered that no matter how old my children are, they still fight over my time and attention. And not only for them but for their children as well. It’s exhausting trying to make everyone happy, to include everyone in every activity, not to mention that it gets expensive. Part of me dreads the holiday. I need some tips for a better attitude.

Pulled Apart Mom

Dear Pulled Apart Mom,

I certainly empathize with your plight. I remember one year when we had six kids in Israel, two married with their spouses and two single. Every meal was a complicated logistical ordeal as we tried to coordinate convenient times and places for our children and something that fit into the budget for us. It was fun and wonderful and draining and demanding all at once – which really defines life with children.

As you mentioned at the beginning of your letter, you feel excited and grateful. Hold on to those thoughts. You are lucky – some families don’t speak, some can’t afford to bring their kids home, some don’t get along, some have no room – enjoy the blessings you have created.

Secondly, you need to adjust your expectations. Your children will always be just that – your children. They will always revert back to certain childhood patterns and behaviors when they return home. It’s unavoidable so you just need to learn to roll with the punches – and not to take the fussing and complaining too seriously. It just comes with the territory.

And, if all else fails, you can do what I did with and for my husband on that long ago trip – have a drink together. That kosher for Passover vodka is actually pretty good!