Dear Debra

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Red Thread’s new advice columnist, Debra Darvick, a longtime Detroiter with Southern roots. Her sample advice column rose to the top of 60 submissions. Thanks to all who applied. We have some very wise readers out there. Enjoy.


Each month, Debra Darvick will dish out her own brand of advice. Got a question for her? Email her at DearDebra@renmedia.us with “Dear Debra” in the subject line.

Q: My son is getting serious with a lovely, non-Jewish girl. What do I do? I’m hoping for Jewish grandchildren.

So was Abraham; that’s why he sent his servant to fetch Isaac a bride. But who has servants to go bride-seeking these days? If the girlfriend is willing, invite her into your family’s Jewish life. Hope, but don’t geshrei (holler) over Jewish grandchildren and conversion. Start with today. Remind your son how Jewish homes provide structure, ethics, community. Better one solid religion than none or two done light (menorah and tree, matzah and bunnies, but little else). If his girlfriend worships elsewhere, is he comfortable raising them in her church? Alas, you have no control; you can have gentle, respectful influence.

Q: My child is invited to one bar/bat mitzvah after another. What is the appropriate amount to spend on gifts?

Consider what’s appropriate for your family’s budget. Lavish gifts aren’t necessary, especially if your child is the only invitee from your family and the bar/bat mitzvah is a casual classmate. A “chai” gift of $18 goes far on iTunes. Going Dutch on a gift is another way to stretch the budget. You might consider asking your child to contribute a modest sum, say a dollar or two from babysitting or chore money for each gift. It’s never too early to learn the realities of finances. Remind your child that what counts most is his/her presence, not the present.

Q: My mother-in-law is always butting in on decisions that should be between my husband and me. He doesn’t speak up, and it’s causing problems between us. Any advice?

Muster a friendly and firm, “Thanks, Mom,” thus acknowledging her need to be involved. You can’t force hubby to confront her, but you can expect him to engage in, and stand by, decisions the two of you make together. Next time a decision needs addressing, initiate the discussion. Tell your husband how important it is that you reach a decision together because more than anyone, you both know what’s best for your family. If the buttinsky ways continue, tell mom-in-law you and her son are considering a move to Australia. What does she think of that?


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