I am a full-time mother with three children under the age of 8. Like all children, mine are masters at testing my patience and pushing my buttons. Still, I manage to hold it together. I don’t often lose my temper, but when I do I am able to apologize to my kids and move on. My husband, on the other hand, spends two full days a week with the kids: Shabbat and Sunday. The rest of the week he sees them only briefly in the morning and at night. When he is home he regularly loses his temper with the children and is unable to get over it. At least one of the children ends up being sent to his room while the others sulk. My husband spends a fraction of the time with our children that I do, shouldn’t he have at least double my patience and tolerance?
— Family values
And if your grandmother had wheels she’d be a bicycle. What else is there to say? There is no point in wishing for the impossible — or in stating and restating the obvious. I don’t know your husband, but I am maore than familiar with the scenario you describe. When he returns home at the end of a long week, no master likes to discover his dominion in disarray. Be patient with your husband while you explain, over and over if need be, that family life is antithetical to order, rational logic and train schedules. Help him to learn how to catch himself before he explodes — a self-imposed timeout, if you will — and to watch for the triggers that set him off. Explain to him (as you might a child) that his family will begin to dread the weekends because he is home and that he is jeopardizing his relationship with his children. If you are as patient with your children as you say, you should have no problem imparting this lesson to their father.
* * *
My husband and I attended the bar mitzvah of our good friends’ sons. We gave them each carefully chosen gifts. These friends attended our children’s bar- and bat-mitzvah celebrations but gave no gift to either child. Now we are invited to their oldest child’s wedding. I can’t help feeling like passing on this occasion. What would you do?
— Poor exchange rate
It is oh so petty to bear ill will and to have your feelings hurt over undelivered gifts. I should know. I still keep track of one family who failed to give me a wedding present and to hold out hope, after 13 years, that a huge package, sized in proportion to the delay, will miraculously appear.
Your friend’s failure to buy gifts for your sons should not detract from the joy you can share with them over the marriage of their first-born. Moreover, passing on the occasion does not exempt you from buying a gift. Go and dance at the wedding. And if you feel you need to make a statement, send a token present. A set of jelly jars would probably make the point. So would a candid conversation with your friends.
Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.