My mother disapproves of my Jewish friend. How can we fix fences?

Over a year ago, I introduced my new girlfriend, who is Jewish, to my mother, who is not Jewish. (My girlfriend and I are in our 20s.) Based on my childhood experiences, I didn’t expect any problems, but my mother surprised me: she told me that she didn’t like my girlfriend. After talking in a circle for a while, she admitted that the main thing she didn’t like was that my friend is Jewish. She also told me not to bring her home for Christmas. So we stayed away last year and we’ve kept our distance ever since. I call my mom every few weeks to try and stay in touch, but she quickly shuts me down. It’s been over two years since we’ve seen each other and something about the holidays makes it extra difficult. Is there anything else I should do?

SON

I am sorry that you are estranged from your mother. Losing a close relationship can be painful, but being rejected by the people who held us as babies, who protected and raised us, can be heartbreaking. Even during the holidays I don’t minimize the special stitch. Secular Christmas fantasies tend to interfere with family love and acceptance, which is simply not the reality for many people.

It sounds like you’re doing what you can: checking in on your mother regularly to see if there’s any chance of reconciliation. I’m also sorry that your anti-Semitism runs so deep. However, aside from repeating your willingness to talk about this issue (either alone or with a counselor), there’s not much more you can do with her.

However, there is something you can do for yourself—and that applies to anyone experiencing a painful alienation: Mourn your loss and acknowledge its special pain. Alienation can sometimes feel even worse than death because the breakup is a choice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. To move forward here—perhaps by starting a family of friends—you must acknowledge the depth of your loss.

Two months ago my son and his wife separated. They share joint custody of their three children (aged 2, 5 and 7) who commute between their homes. So far the children seem to have settled in reasonably well and the parents are trying to maintain a friendly relationship. However, Christmas presents a dilemma: where does Santa Claus take his presents? (Two of the children are believers, the third does not speak.) The parents’ suggestion that he should come to both houses seems exaggerated to me. Her thoughts?

GRANNY

So when you say there is a “Christmas Dilemma,” you mean that you disagree with the joint decision made by recently separated parents. I assume you mean well here, but frankly I find it hard to understand why you would want to make a fuss over such a minor matter at a tender time for a hurt family.

The parents probably want to make both houses attractive for the children. And if extra Christmas stockings or gifts under a tree make anyone – child or adult – feel better about the new arrangement, I’m all for it! With all due respect, now is the time to support your son’s family, not for production difficulties.

I love that neighbors put up Christmas lights on their houses. You also. But some leave the light on overnight. I am concerned about wildlife that may be affected. I also love admiring the stars in the night sky that are snuffed out by Christmas lights. Is it excessive to ask neighbors to turn off the lights before they go to bed?

dave

It seems unlikely to me that your neighbors’ twinkling lights would cause wildlife to confuse night for day. But I’m no ecologist — and I have no idea how bright and colorful your neighbors’ decorations are.

Also, asking your neighbors to turn off their Christmas lights before bed doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to enjoy the night sky unless you stay up late. Of course, asking politely never hurts! But it also doesn’t hurt to wait a few weeks before they turn off their lights.

My ex-partner and I were together for three years. During that time, I’ve shared my login privileges with him, from newspapers to streaming sites. He can certainly afford his own subscriptions. However, I’ve noticed that since we broke up, he’s still logging in with my credentials. Knowing him, he probably does this out of habit or laziness. Should I ask him to stop or just change my passwords? We have civil email terms.

SUSAN

Context is (usually) king. Calling your relationship with your ex “civilian” doesn’t strike me as particularly warm or fuzzy. And I have no idea if his tendency towards laziness and habit will result in him continuing to use your logins after you ask him to stop. Either text him that you are changing your passwords, or just change them. (Skipping heads-up seems a bit abrupt to me, but not out of line.)


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