Sibling Rivalry and Mixed Marriages

by Marnie Macauley June 1, 2015


Dear Marnie: My wife just had our second child, Simon. We also have a three year-old, Aaron. Since the bris two months ago, it’s been a killer. We tried to prepare Aaron for the baby. He felt my wife’s tummy and seemed excited about a new little brother to play with. Now, he whines how he hates Simon and wishes we never “got him.” The other night, we found him tapping on the baby’s foot! I don’t feel we should coddle this. Aaron knows what he’s saying is wrong. My wife disagrees. She tells him she knows he really doesn’t mean to say these things, and since he’s our first, he’s even more special. What do you think?
– Graying Early

MARNIE SAYS: Let’s look at what Aaron thinks. “If I’m so ‘special,’ why’d you need another one of me – especially one that’s messier?” (You’re laughing.) You see, you’re expecting poor Aaron to be logical, adult. But he’s 3 ½!  He can’t think like you, so let’s think like him.
Picture it: Your wife informs you, “Sweetie, you’re so special, I’m bringing another man, Hershel, home to add to our happiness.” Hershel’s younger, cuter, and gets your wife’s attention 24/7. Even her friends are all wiggy over him. How would you feel? Betrayed? Wronged? Slighted? Ignored? Jealous? Scared? In “hate”? You bet.

Now, imagine you tell your wife, “Get rid of Hershel. I hate him!” and her answer is: a.)

“That’s not true, sweetie. You love Hershel.” b.) “You’re being selfish!” c.) “You were first, so you’ll always be special!” Get it?  Good.

Try talking straight to your son who feels “all of the above.” Let him tell you his truth and listen without blame, without shame.

Do set limits. No hurting the baby. That’s a rule. He’s to be stopped instantly. He can show you how angry he feels with a doll.

If you hear and react to your son’s feelings rather than his words, you’ll give him the space to let the new baby into his life with love because he won’t fear losing yours. Mazel Tov!

Dear Marnie: My husband and I have been married a year and we just had a little girl. My husband is Catholic and I’m Jewish. Our parents have finally made an uneasy peace with it. We both care about our respective backgrounds and are unsettled about how to raise Jennifer. We are considering letting her experience both religions and letting her decide on her own when she’s old enough. What do you say?
– A Crisis Of Faith

MARNIE SAYS: Wait. I need time to whip up a potato latke the size of a blanket to hide under. (Send applesauce.) No doubt my intelligent readers will bombard me with anecdotes of the Kerry-Cohens whose happy children devoured Easter hams and Seder briskets and survived to become ecumenically correct. But, since you’re asking about the matter of choosing for children when parents celebrate different religious traditions, I says PICK ONE.

While I’m 100 percent behind tolerance, beliefs are stitched onto our baby blankets and souls. If religion is important to you and your families, is it realistic to expect a child to grasp the deeper meanings of two or more belief systems without confusion – especially before they’ve cut a wisdom tooth?

Is it fair to ask a child to choose up “sides?”  Mom’s vs. Pop’s? Isn’t this a Hatfield-McCoy uproar in the making when half the clan feels “rejected” and the little person takes the heat?   She can celebrate both you say. In my vast experience, expect:

The Big “Hanukkah Bush-Green Bagel” water down. As adults, many of these kids mumble Peace on Earth (a good thing), but are often clueless or “do-less” about religion. Hey, it’s fine by me. Is it ok by you?


They marry someone who’s orthodox-something, and you, FamilyofMan, get all archy.
The truth is, this conversation is a little late. These issues are best determined before you vow. That said, seriously question what your beliefs mean to you, and how strongly you feel about passing yours on vs. your mate’s. Negotiate how and what you and your child will celebrate – then, choose how your child will view himself. Once decided, she can participate, respect, and enjoy the traditions of both religions, indeed many. But in my view, if religious tradition is important to you, she must know who she is, and whether she’s a loving spectator or a participant.

While a noble wish, it’s an ignoble task to try and do right by all and remain true to you and fair to her.


Marnie Winston-Macauley,, whose work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations, is the author of the acclaimed “Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother” and the award-winning “A Little Joy, A Little Oy” series. Marnie is also a counselor on and invites you to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and  for counseling.


Sponsored Content

designed & hosted by: