I want to celebrate his eighth birthday with a dinner with my family, yet my wife is hung up on her holiday.
What’s more important? His birthday or Rosh Hashanah? Mind you, there are three days’ worth of celebration for Rosh Hashannah and only one day to celebrate my son’s birthday.
In addition to my son, we have two additional children together.
I’m open to your comments. — Catholic Husband, Jewish Wife
If you’re married and already have two children together, I’m surprised you haven’t yet reached agreement on how to handle a situation like this. Have you even agreed on how to raise your kids in regards to religion? Obviously, this is a topic you need to address if you haven’t already. If one religion is the predominant one in the family, then as a family, you should observe that religion’s holidays. If you have decided to observe holidays independently, you should at the very least be respecting the other spouse’s traditions and culture in regard to his or her religion. That means supporting your wife when she goes to temple to observe Rosh Hashannah, one of the holiest times of the year for Jews.
I’m married to a Jewish man (I’m not Jewish) and my birthday has fallen on Rosh Hashannah (and both his and our son’s has fallen on Passover and Yom Kippur, respectively), and I can say that there’s not a universal way of doing things (even within our family, we’ve made different decisions on different years when there are birthday conflicts). When there’s a conflict — a birthday or other important event that falls on a Jewish holiday — we decide as a couple what to do. One year, early in our marriage (I think we were still newlyweds), my birthday fell on the first night of Rosh Hashannah, when Drew ordinarily would have taken his father, who was around 90 at the time, to temple. I told him it would be nice if he could have dinner if that was possible. He arranged for his brother to take his dad to temple that night and he went to temple the next day. It wasn’t a matter of one event being more important than the other. It was a matter of communicating and finding a possible compromise, which, happily, there was.
The problem you have here isn’t the conflict of dates/occasions; it’s that you didn’t figure this out and make a joint decision weeks ago. You could have easily had a birthday celebration over the weekend, which sounds more fun than a Monday night family get-together anyway. You could also celebrate tonight without your wife. Sure, birthdays fall on one specific day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible about what day(s) you celebrate them. How often do people have birthday parties on their actual birthdays anyway? It’s a little more difficult to be flexible when it comes to celebrating/observing religious holidays — though not impossible — since you’re often at the mercy of scheduled services at places of worship.
Anyway, it’s not fair to turn this into a competition of what’s more important -— Rosh Hashannah or your son’s birthday, or your values vs. your wife’s values. They’re both important. And both can be celebrated if you actually communicate, compromise, respect each other, and plan in advance.
PS. I just asked Drew, who’s dressed in a suit and heading to temple, what he thought about all this and he said: “No contest, the kid’s birthday is more important!” (He’s not especially religious, for what it’s worth). Then I read to him what I wrote above and he said, “Yeah, you’re right,” proving once again that my husband is a very smart man.
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