A reader – “Marsha” – asked me if I could post this so my readership could help her with some solutions. I know that if I were in the same shoes as this devoted Jewish mother, I would be so angry too. In fact I found myself livid after reading her letter.
So…I found out that my ex has been bringing our twelve year old son “Max” to CHURCH on the weekends that he has him. Max has been afraid to say anything to him about not wanting to go because he was afraid his dad would get mad. The ex let it slip last time he dropped Max off that he had gone to church that morning, with Max. When I asked our son how many times he has gone to church he said, “A lot!” He takes his Nintendo DS and plays games the whole time and doesn’t pay any attention to what is going on but it is still the principle of the whole thing.
Thing is, when I was married to him, he didn’t believe in G-d so religion didn’t matter to him but his new wife is religious and goes to church every Sunday – so understandably he wants to be with his new wife. I just don’t agree that he needs to take Max along. This is a Jewish child, MY JEWISH CHILD!
I tried to talk to him about it, explaining that even though I feel it is important for Max to learn about other religions and to respect what others choose to believe, our beliefs prohibit us from going to church. I asked that he respect my wishes as Max’s mom and his custodial parent.
I also acknowledged that he would like to be spending that time with his new wife which I totally understand but his response to this all was that if Max is with him he is going to church and that is that.
I AM FURIOUS! I don’t have a clue what to do. Our divorce decree is silent on religion since it wasn’t an issue for him since he didn’t believe in G-d back then. I let him have Max for an extra day on the weekends that he has him so he can spend more father-son bonding time – but I can cut that out and insist on picking up Max Saturday night. As per our original agreement.
I just don’t know what to do. I know Max needs to have time with his Dad, and I really don’t want to get in the way of that but there is no way I will stand idly by and allow him to be shlepped to church. Max doesn’t even want to go. He hates it there. But he’s a child who has been taught to respect his parents. This has been so confusing for him.
The above letter is from a Jewish mother, but it could easily be written by any parent of any religion whose ex spouse is deliberately acting against the express wishes of the custodial parent.
How do you suggest that Marsha handles this? What advice could you give her? How would you feel if you were in her shoes? How would you advise her to handle Max so that she doesn’t paint his father as a bad man for taking him to church, but in a way that Max understands that going to church is wrong for him as a Jewish boy?