Passover decision needed ASAP - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all, I am new and hope I am posting this in the right place.  I was raised in a Christian denomination, husband was Jewish but it didn't matter and we feel in love quickly and were "soulmates".   By nature I have a hard time being decisive.  I see both sides of an issue, and often ended up pleasing my husband who was trying to please his mother.  She convinced her son of benefits of me converting.  So for him/his parents, I converted to Judaism but it wasn't my real desire.  So foolish for not standing up for myself better.  Fast forward to present:  In-law's Passover seder coming up in two weeks and I have not committed to whether I am going.  They're pushing for decision understandably.  Meanwhile I haven't decided which denomination of church I want to be now.  I want my son to know what I am and what we "do" at home.  Christianity is what I grew up with.  How do I re-start?  What do I do about the seder?  Need help ASAP.  Sigh... sorry for the long post.  

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#2 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 11:10 AM
 
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Is your son comfortable with his grandma? Maybe you could just send him so he could take part. I don't see anything wrong with exposing him to more than one religion. You can still take him to church with you and / or talk about your traditions.

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#3 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 11:12 AM
 
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i think it's okay for you to not go but still send your son. he should know his fathers family and traditions still. if you think you can go and be respectful and observant for the evening it would be nice for your son to have you there. but don't go if you are going to be full of resentment and uncomfortable all evening. also, only if you can bite your tounge well! :) i think judaisim is beautiful and would love to be invtied to a seder, but thats just me!

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#4 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 11:16 AM
 
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I would definitely go to the seder. 

I grew up with Jewish family on one side and Catholic family on the other.  We always went to one family for some holidays and the other family for the other holidays.  Passover is a really big deal and you don't just miss it just like you wouldn't miss Christmas.  That is your sons grandmother and although your relationship with her is strained, his should not be.  He should not even be aware that your relationship is strained. 

I was raised Jewish as at about the age of 6 my parents decided they wanted to go one way or the other.  But we still always went to Grandma's for Christmas and Easter and it was really fun.  I knew it wasn't 'our' holiday but I enjoyed it and the time with the family is important. 

 

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#5 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 12:23 PM
 
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I would definitely go to the seder. 

I grew up with Jewish family on one side and Catholic family on the other.  We always went to one family for some holidays and the other family for the other holidays.  Passover is a really big deal and you don't just miss it just like you wouldn't miss Christmas.  That is your sons grandmother and although your relationship with her is strained, his should not be.  He should not even be aware that your relationship is strained. 

I was raised Jewish as at about the age of 6 my parents decided they wanted to go one way or the other.  But we still always went to Grandma's for Christmas and Easter and it was really fun.  I knew it wasn't 'our' holiday but I enjoyed it and the time with the family is important. 

 



Go. It really isn't about your theological results. It is just a seder.

 

They lost a son too and this is probably a difficult time for them. They just want to see their family together.

 

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#6 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 12:56 PM
 
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I would go. I was raised Christian and the other side of my family is largely Jewish. We celebrated Passover both in our Lutheran church (pastor had Jewish heritage) and with Jewish relatives. It was a very powerful and special experience for me every year.

The seder is a beautiful ceremony celebration jewish AND Christian roots. The Last Supper that Christ celebrated with his desciples was thought to have been the seder.

If you are not certain how you want to bring your son up why not expose him to both Christian and Jewish ceremony, services, and beliefs? That would be respectful to your husband's memory and to your own beliefs.
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#7 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 03:50 PM
 
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I'm Christian, and I would also have no problem going to a seder dinner. Jesus was Jewish, and it would be a great conversation-starter with your son. He's 7, which is a great age for being exposed to memorable holidays and cultural events. It would mean a lot to him as he gets older, plus it might help him feel closer to his dad.


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#8 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 03:55 PM
 
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My XH's family was Jewish and I was invited to a seder once. I didn't mind attending. But I'm not really religious. The one I attended was more about discussing the story of mosses; not as much about prayer. I guess that may differ from family to family.

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#9 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 04:28 PM
 
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OP, in your mind is this problem more about your relationship with MIL and not wanting to be around her? Or is it about your conflicted feelings about religion? If it's religion, I think you should go. As pp have said, no matter what religion you ultimately decide to raise your son (and as a Jew, I would not advise Judaism, since you were essentially pushed into it and seem to have no interest), it's still important for him to know something of his father's heritage.

On the other hand, if this is about MIL and 20 years of a strained, resentful relationship with her, maybe now that you are widowed (I am sorry for your loss) this is the time to disengage.
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#10 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by zinemama View Post

OP, in your mind is this problem more about your relationship with MIL and not wanting to be around her? Or is it about your conflicted feelings about religion? If it's religion, I think you should go. As pp have said, no matter what religion you ultimately decide to raise your son (and as a Jew, I would not advise Judaism, since you were essentially pushed into it and seem to have no interest), it's still important for him to know something of his father's heritage.

On the other hand, if this is about MIL and 20 years of a strained, resentful relationship with her, maybe now that you are widowed (I am sorry for your loss) this is the time to disengage.

Yup Zinemama, you distilled it down to the two points... Yes it's about my uncertainty about which religion to "officially" belong to, and 2) it's also about my relationship with MIL.  If she was easygoing, no agenda, accepting whatever decision I make without constantly putting in her two cents as though they're worth 2000 dollars, I would have no problem going and would not have posted... But she knows I'm uncertain.  She asked me once if I plan on raising my son Jewish.  She asked me if I plan on sending him to Hebrew school.  She asked me once if I'm giving him a religious ed.  I told her many times I don't want to discuss this with her as I have not made up my mind.  She has stopped asking, but I know she wonders.  The hard part is that she's so convinced in the superiority of all her beliefs as well as her religion.  If I was firmly settled in what my religious beliefs are, I could go head to head with her and wouldn't be so stressed about the holiday.  And no I cannot send my son without me (there are other reasons for that)... btw I thank everyone for your replies!

 

If I do go to the seder, and my son asks we're Jewish too, right mama?  What do I say?  That's the most awkward position I can be put into.  He may innocently ask in front of everyone.  Help!


 

 

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#11 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 05:52 PM
 
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your son is Jewish whether you raise him secular or not and that is something he can be proud of even if you decide to raise him as a Christian. being Jewish is not just a religion, its a tribe and he was born into that tribe.


  

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#12 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 06:19 PM
 
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Your son is most definitely Jewish. You could take him out and baptize him tomorrow, and most American rabbis wouldn't care two cents about it later in life, because it was something done to him without his consent. You, as an adult, converted to Judaism and married a born-Jewish man. Your child is Jewish, and frankly, he shouldn't have to ASK you at this point. He should know. I have a seven-year-old as well, and he has a mixed extended family, but he sure as heck understands that he's Jewish! 

 

That said... your MIL must be a serious piece of work, for you even to be considering skipping Passover a year and a half after she lost her fortysomething son. If the relationship is truly toxic, then it's your right to disengage. I really strongly suspect that no matter what your personal beliefs, you would not feel conflict about attending family holidays if conflict did not suffuse the rest of your relationship. The decisions about affiliation, religious school etc. are all important decisions, and I HATE to think that if I died, my (gentile) husband would neglect those things or say/do anything that would confuse my kids about their religious/ethnic identity. But that's really a separate issue from "how do I deal with my dead husband's family?" You could give your son a Jewish education and never speak to your MIL again. You could start taking him to church and bring him to his grandma's house every weekend! These are two different sets of decisions, and I wish you luck in making them. 

 

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#13 of 27 Old 04-07-2011, 07:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, it's unfortunately a toxic relationship betw. me and MIL.   And this is a difficult situation for me to work through with the various overlapping issues.  My religion, my son's religion, formal education for him or not and which one, and how fast do I have to make these decisions?  This was a very hard question to post.  I didn't want to be judged.  But I am so unsure and have been for a long time... and my husband of many years no longer here... may he rest in peace.   This decision of how to go forth is all on me.  I had converted after much prodding and pushing from MIL camp.  I did everything to please my husband.  And now I feel I am letting everyone down including myself.  It's crazy but I feel if I admit to myself and my son that he is Jewish, then MIL wins; checkmate.  This is a horrible feeling, combined with not knowing what I stand for myself, it's even worse!

 

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#14 of 27 Old 04-08-2011, 04:26 AM
 
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Hugs.   Sounds like your conversion wasn't from your heart and you did it to please your husband.   Are there any local Churches that you could visit and maybe have a few meetings with a Christian pastor to explore your feelings?  As for your son there is no harm in exposing him to both the Jewish faith and Christian faith.   

 


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#15 of 27 Old 04-08-2011, 10:45 AM
 
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OP, I think you should talk to a counselor. You really need an objective eye on this one. Smithie is absolutely right that you could decide to give your son a Jewish education and totally disengage from MIL. I realize that it's really hard to separate your feelings about MIL from the the decision about whether to raise your son Jewish or not, but that mental separation is your first priority here and I don't think you're going to be able to make any kind of choice that you'll feel good about without achieving it.. That's why I think you need the counselor.

(It also might be helpful to talk to a rabbi. (Not MIL's!!) Someone who will help you sort out what it means to have converted essentially under duress (not a good thing in Judaism!) and maybe give you some insight.
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#16 of 27 Old 04-08-2011, 11:37 AM
 
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Yes, separating the issues into more manageable ones, could help. Especially separating everything you can from your relationship with MIL.

 

Below is just one possible way of looking at the issues, as I see them. You don't have to agree. But it might help.

 

First, there's the issue of your poor relationship with MIL. You are under no obligation to maintain ties with her yourself. While it would be nice for your son to maintain ties with his father's family and heritage, it can be on your terms, not hers. What about FIL? Uncles? Aunts? Cousins? They can all be people who, if any are not toxic, could help maintain those ties while minimizing any contact you may have with MIL.

 

Then, there's the issue of your conversion. Which seems to have been under duress and not from the heart. You don't have to remain Jewish yourself. At the same time, you don't have to look on it as a bad thing you did under duress (even if that is how you feel about it now). You could chose to see it as a gift you gave to your husband because that was the only thing that would allow his son to be born Jewish. A gift to your husband, your soulmate. Not something you did for MIL. Because, in many ways it was a gift to him. Find peace in that gift. Even if you don't remain Jewish yourself.

 

Then there is the issue of your son's religious education. As many have said, you son is currently Jewish. But you *can* certainly raise him as a Jew and not be Jewish yourself and simultaneously expose him to your beliefs (should you go back to a Christian denomination). Teach him both. Simultaneously. Let him take part in those elements of the Jewish faith (Passover seder, high holidays, bar mitzva, etc.) that will give him the ability to live his life according to whatever beliefs he choses as an adult. But it doesn't have to be done with MIL. You can find a different synagog for him. 

One thing my (Jewish) stepdad said at last year's sedar was that as parents, Jews do not have the obligation to ensure that their children become practicing Jews. Their obligation is to provide their kids with the knowledge they would need to do so if they so choose as an adult. An "obligation of means" rather than an "obligation of results", if you will.

On Hebrew school, my brother and sisters went... after school classes once a week or so for a few years. That's all. Ultimately, no matter what religion they may adopt in their adult lives, even if they convert, learning a second (or third) language is never a bad thing.

And none of any of it forbids you from also teaching him about what you believe simultaneously.

 

You can choose to see a "Jewish education" as a gift you give your son--the gift of additional ties to his father's heritage, and thus to his father himself.

You can choose to approach this "Jewish education" as giving your son knowledge of his father's heritage, rather than as an attempt or obligation to ensure that your son *believes*.

 

I'm not Jewish (my mother converted after I was born). Went to Catholic schools. Lived in a Jewish home. Celebrated Christmas and Hanukah and Easter and Passover. It wasn't confusing for any of us. And it made my life richer in many ways.

 

I hope you find a path to peace that works for you and your son. That works with and for the memory of your husband. Whatever that path may be.

 

As for your MIL, it's up to you and a separate issue. Whatever you decide about her, don't let that dictate your other decisions. Your terms. Not hers.

Good luck!

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#17 of 27 Old 04-08-2011, 02:34 PM
 
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Yup Zinemama, you distilled it down to the two points... Yes it's about my uncertainty about which religion to "officially" belong to, and 2) it's also about my relationship with MIL.  If she was easygoing, no agenda, accepting whatever decision I make without constantly putting in her two cents as though they're worth 2000 dollars, I would have no problem going and would not have posted... But she knows I'm uncertain.  She asked me once if I plan on raising my son Jewish.  She asked me if I plan on sending him to Hebrew school.  She asked me once if I'm giving him a religious ed.  I told her many times I don't want to discuss this with her as I have not made up my mind.  She has stopped asking, but I know she wonders.  The hard part is that she's so convinced in the superiority of all her beliefs as well as her religion.  If I was firmly settled in what my religious beliefs are, I could go head to head with her and wouldn't be so stressed about the holiday.  And no I cannot send my son without me (there are other reasons for that)... btw I thank everyone for your replies!

 

If I do go to the seder, and my son asks we're Jewish too, right mama?  What do I say?  That's the most awkward position I can be put into.  He may innocently ask in front of everyone.  Help!


 

Your son is Jewish regardless of how you promised to raise him when you converted or how to you choose to raise him now. His father is Jewish and his mother was Jewish and he is Jewish. He can be raised in a religious household or not, it doesn't matter. It is part of his person. 

 

DH's family is Jewish in a very lax and cultural way and everything is fine with it.   My family is very religious and Christian. Neither of us are religious at all. We pretty much celebrate holidays that involve food and family. But my kids are Jewish, or at least half regardless of what I expose them. 

 



 

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#18 of 27 Old 04-08-2011, 02:53 PM
 
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"And now I feel I am letting everyone down including myself.  It's crazy but I feel if I admit to myself and my son that he is Jewish, then MIL wins; checkmate."

 

hug2.gif

 

I really, really empathize with this. The last thing I would want if my husband died is to be railroaded by my in-laws.

 

... and the last thing I'd want HIM to do if I died is to alter the decision we made together about our children's religious identity and upbringing. 

 

You are in a hard place. I think Ione made a lot of good points. An impartial third party (counselor, rabbi, minister, whatever) might be a great resource to talk this stuff out with. 

 

Meanwhile, the seder's fast approaching. I'd like to think that if I were you, I would go and start the process of setting my new boundaries with my ILs. But you've been through a lot, and if you're not ready this year then THAT IS OKAY. 

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#19 of 27 Old 04-09-2011, 10:43 AM
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(Speaking from a Unitarian sort of background).

 

Don't go. You don't want to, so don't. If you go, it will exacerbate your feelings of confusion and being railroaded. If it were me, I'd quickly mail a note saying 'This year DS and I can't make it. Please have a wonderful holiday and I'll let you know when we're ready for further invites'. Then you can have some space to come to an honest conclusion about how you want to proceed with new boundaries with MotherInLaw. Have you read Toxic In Laws? Go ahead and read that before you have any further real-time interaction with her.

 

I say this because you imply that your son can't go without you. As far as I'm concerned, that's people I would move on from. I have a hard time imagining that there's a way to reconcile "Kid can't go alone", with "These are great people who are integral to my child's upbringing". I'm kind of reading between the lines in your post, but why on earth would he not be able to go without you? Are they going to sabotage your role? Then they don't get to have your kid, period. They aren't an asset to him if they'd punk his dear Mama, and his only living parent. Which is what it reads like the MIL has done/feels entitled to do.

 

(I have a seven year old son as well, FWIW).

 

I have had to disengage from my 'MIL'(I'm not married). My advice in that is to learn from my process....I ended up laundry-listing her the 45 ways she'd been wronging me, and I did choose to tell her in a dozen ways how much I think she sucks. Well, if she were the sort of person to understand, to practice self-reflection, to "get it"....she wouldn't have done all that garbage in the first place! Still, it was damn important to my healing to give her that laundry list. I don't feel like I'm carrying some burden that she dumped on me anymore. But not all situations call for this....It is entirely possible that you can rewrite the script without "doing therapy" with her. You may be able to write her a letter soon that reads "With the tragic passing of Husband, My job as mother has changed. You'll find I'm much more committed to my own self as a person, and more solid in my role as the exclusive decision-maker for DS's remaining childhood years. I need you to know that if I ever want your input, I will ask for it".  You don't have to engage beyond that. She can make her own decisions about what's more important: controlling you/your son, or having an authentic relationship. It's a gift you give her as well, when you call on your own power (spine) and stick to it.

 

 

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#20 of 27 Old 04-09-2011, 06:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You ladies are all so AWESOME for your insightful ideas and sharing your experiences, too.  I am SO conflicted... but I reluctantly decided to go, because it's a combination of Jewish and Christian, since Jesus also had a seder.   I also have no real excuse to skip out; I can't lie because they live in close proximity.   I have one week to give myself a crash course in the history of Judeo-Christian history.  And one week to have answers ready for my son should he ask... and I have to start deciding how I will raise my son.   I can't postpone the decision making process anymore.  MIL still can make my blood boil... but if I can be more decisive and clear with myself about things, and have clear answers for my son, I will be able to face these things better.

 

Again, thank you all so much!

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#21 of 27 Old 04-11-2011, 04:30 PM
 
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No problem! Please come back and tell us how it went. 

 

BTW, in my area, lots and lots of Jewishly-descended people go to the Unitarian Fellowship. They had a huge community seder a couple years back. It would certainly be worth a phone call to see if your local congregation has a similar demographic. (I warn you, though, this is not a solution that will please your MIL. But it's not your job to please her - it's your job to have a religious life that works for your family, i.e. you and your son.) 

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#22 of 27 Old 04-12-2011, 03:13 PM
 
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I think the issue with your MIL is more at play here, but just in case it helps your mind any about the religious aspect of the seder, my in-laws seders have always had several non-Jewish guests, mostly Christian, but also at least one Buddhist.

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#23 of 27 Old 04-16-2011, 01:40 PM
 
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 hug.gif I hope everything goes okay for you and your son.

 

I was raised by a widowed mother. My father died when I was a toddler. My mother could not stand my father's family and made the decision to keep almost all of them out of my life. That was very much in line with what felt right and important to her but it was a huge loss in my life. It wasn't until I became an adult (and my gandmother and a few aunts and uncles had already died) that I was able to seek out a relationship with that part of my family. It would have meant so much to me to have had them in my life while I was growing up. I know there would have been conflict between my mother and some of them and that would have been confusing but that would not have overpowered the good things. There was always a huge hole in my life - not just from the death of my father but from the absence of his family in my life because my mother did not like them.

 

I wish I could have grown up seeing people who had always known my father. I wish I could have grown up spending time with people I looked like and discovered I had many things in common with. I always hated feeling like wanting to know my paternal grandmother and other family was being disloyal to my mother. That wouldn't be your intention but having been a child in this position, I think you need to do all you can to avoid giving your son that message.

 

It sounds like a really hard situation. You want what is best for your son and yourself and being around your MIL is very stressful for you. It has to be stressful for her too, as others have said but it sounds like she is not as willing to try to make peace and do what is best for your little boy. That leaves it all up to you, which isn't fair but that is what it looks like. Maybe having the support of a therapist to help you deal with the complexities of this would make it a little easier and help you find some good ideas for how to deal with her.

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#24 of 27 Old 04-16-2011, 01:48 PM
 
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Will your son be the youngest child at the Passover seder? Passover is for children. I'm glad you decided to go :) Does he have a role? Will he get to ask the questions? Has been to seders in the past and gone searching for the Afikomen? My mother did not raise us in the Jewish tradition but her sister invited us to seders many times. It's the best holiday for kids!

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#25 of 27 Old 04-17-2011, 12:10 PM
 
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(facepalm) The four questions! Duh!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsWh4YaD3HE

 

Show up with a kid who can sing this song, win 10,000 Good Jewish Mom Points from the extended family. Even if MIL is not impressed, all the other guests will be. 

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#26 of 27 Old 04-22-2011, 07:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you SO MUCH for everyone's replies. I read all of them and you truly helped me see different points of views so I was able to step outside a little bit and see this with a slightly clearer lens... I went to the seder and my son did not ask me the questions I was worried he would.  I had a little white wine (yeah baby) and this helped me relax... I rarely drink so it sure made a difference.  Before we arrived I told my son we are going to a Passover seder, and next weekend we will have have an Easter dinner.  He said oh, ok!

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#27 of 27 Old 04-23-2011, 07:29 AM
 
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AWESOME JOB MAMA!!!

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