A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: culture

Where Traditions Collide with Life

Hanukkah rolled around again. It’s a children’s holiday…or became one because it’s around Christmas, and God forbid American Jewish families not take part in our capitalist society.

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(Sing it with me, ParentMap, “Falalalala…La La La La…)

I’m not religious, nor is my husband; but we both very much identify culturally as Jews. For other faiths it’s an odd concept. How can two people consider themselves faithfully within a religion without the belief in a higher power or practice the barest of minimum of the religious traditions…if any at all?

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(No worries, BetaNews, my kids ignore me pointing at them too.)

I can’t really answer that question articulately, but we are not all that unique. Judaism is more than just the religion piece tied into other Moses descending faiths. But, I can’t explain why or how such a thing came to pass. It’s why I provided links to pieces that explain the phenomenon better than I ever could.

I grew up in a conservative small town far away from where I am now. I learned from the onset people worldwide don’t really care too much for Jews. Maybe that’s the motivating factor for this piece of my identity; I was an outsider.

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(Not cool to poke fun at my short stature, Sanity Check!)

I went to Sunday school…and Hebrew school during the designated timeframe. I struggled through the process of my readings, but I had my Bat-Mitzvah. I made solid attempts to go beyond to be confirmed. I didn’t make it.

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(Real question, did Universal Life Church Monastery pay these kids to enjoy their version of Sunday school?)

Shortly after choosing to continue on with my Jewish studies, the groups of other Jewish children I’d been thrown with since childhood became oppressive. I learned from the onset that religion among peers is not necessarily a galvanizing force for friendships…or even tolerance.

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(NextShark agrees that concerning G-d or otherwise, sometimes it’s time to peace out, bitches!)

My family was never religious, and as I inched toward high school graduation, my family practiced increasingly less. For a time I took on more of the traditions of Judaism, but that completely fizzled within a couple years into my marriage…my husband has never really embraced the religious traditions either as he meandered into adulthood. As a married couple the only holidays we celebrated were the ones we couldn’t avoid.

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(Dining on Chinese food; the finest of all of our religious traditions!)

But, now I have children, and I want them to see themselves a Jews…however that might play out in their unfolding lives.

Like many parenting mysteries I’ve reflected on over the scant past few years, the notions of how I instill desired values on my children blazes its awareness on the regular. It’s actually a more challenging pursuit climbing past the ideological phase, and the logistical pieces are the most important. Part of this situation is identifying my own belief system, and to what extent my exact view needs to be replicated…religious affiliation or otherwise. But, even within the general context of this kind of thing, there are so many ways my kids could adapt the framework as their own.

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(To each their own, TotallyTheBomb.com. I still can’t keep Little Man from dropping complete trough after he THINKS something…like two drops of water…landed on his shirt.)

There is this kind of parenting theory…or philosophy…or whatever that I’ve noticed on various parenting sites I don’t read, but the short of it is that parents want their children to just develop beliefs and such as free spirited entities. I might be oversimplifying, and if it works for a family system, who am I to judge?

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(I’ve got my own problems, uTube. I just left the kids alone for two minuets!)

For me, personally, I find leaving the entirety of my children’s beliefs and values to chance a parenting cop-out. I sound judgy about other people, but I’m not really. This isn’t my personal parenting approach, so I don’t really have an explicit notion of what such a style entails. For me, however, I believe in a more heavy hand in influencing how my children will see the world. As they grow and encounter their own experiences, their perceptions will color what I’ve taught them, and be part of how they navigate the world. I have certain beliefs and values about what constitutes a good, kind, and productive person. I try to teach, but more importantly model what is right in the context of my life’s navigations…and, frankly, encountering a lot of assholes in my travels. I’m fully aware that they may take or leave my lessons as they see fit once they begin adulting. That is their prerogative.

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(What could go wrong, Giphy?)

Religion is a teeny-tiny piece of my bigger parenting picture, but my husband and I take much pride to be Jews. I very much want my children to feel the same strength in this identity. In today’s world, especially as Jews, easier said than done, particularly since I know so very little about Judaism as a religion, and I find such practices of it mostly in the realm of tedious. Intellectually, I find certain aspects within the Reform sect to have value; but I have a strong dislike for attending synagogue or prayer in general.

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(Not embarrassing during a service at all, right Bored Panda?)

But, now I have children, and I want them to see themselves a Jews…however that might play out in their unfolding lives.

Ultimately, my enjoyment of specific activities is irrelevant provided I don’t have a specific opposition to the beliefs behind them. Little Man is three-and-a-half-years-old now, so my philosophical notions are abruptly hovering over the pot, and I no longer am able to just whimsically stand there and daydream about some day…at some point.

So, Hanukkah rolled around again. We’ve more or less been celebrating Rosh Hashanah for years now…the first night meal anyway. I doubt my son really gets what it’s all about other than it’s kinda a big deal. He’s three-and-a-half, so it’s probably not that important quite yet. At this point he might get a loose association that it has to do with a big meal and family.

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(Different holiday, but in the biblical world, Little Man would be known as The Great Butterfingers of the Jewish people…and he’d also manage to keep everyone lost in the desert forty-years, only he’d keep his peers entertained with random commentary about water pipes and narrations of the obvious…But, there would be chocolate for all!)

When my son was born we didn’t really celebrate Hanukkah. It’s mostly a nothing holiday, and Little Man had been too young to really get it. I believe he received a gift or two that first year…we recorded the obligatory baby muddling through wrapping paper. I’m not even sure we even went through that effort for Warrior Queen…sigh…second child. Although, she definitely received the same number of gifts as her big brother, which means she made out like a bandit…something Mr. Man did not at the same age. Ah, what a couple of years of consciousness yields…

This year the holiday snuck up on me. My husband and I don’t like showering our kids in endless toys. I’m sure comparatively our family playroom is sparse, but they certainly aren’t hurting for stuff. Consequently, I don’t think we’ve actually bought a toy for either child yet; the family is consistently generous on that front. This year was no exception.

I have a general idea of what this holiday’s traditions will be, even if my execution left much to be desired this time around. The grandparents weren’t around this year, so I didn’t bother with the brisket…It’s heavy, and my husband strictly monitors his cholesterol. I can’t help but feel a bit sad about it though, I do so love red meat; and I make a pretty mean brisket if I do say so myself. The holiday this year was quite haphazard, but with it spanning eight days, the routine gained a bit more flow as time progressed. Generally, kids are supposed to get some kind of gift or trinket every night. My kids have enough shit, so we spaced out the gifts. A bit beyond the midway point they’d received most of them.

Thanks to my husband and his knowledge of the candle blessings, this piece was probably the loveliest, most memorable part of our celebration. I’ll remember my son’s ownership over the menorah candle lighting; and his insistence on retrieving his and my husband’s kippah, placing one of the mirror images of whatever free kippahs we snagged from some holiday or another on his own head. Equally delighted when my daughter would take her turn after the prayers were uttered. She beamed through each rendition of removing and replacing this beanie-like hat. After the third time the smiles turned to giggles and she danced around. Each evening this routine replicated itself, and it makes me sad that next year such a thing will likely not occur. I soothe myself with the thought that there will be some other melting ritual that will emerge before falling to a similar history.

I can’t speak for either of the children, but my favorite part of the eight days was going into my son’s room toward the end of his nap; the explicit purpose to wake him. Historically, waking Little Man from his nap, regardless of how long he’s been asleep is unsuccessful. What can I say? The kid loves his sleep…I completely relate to such a sentiment. But, for two nights in a row, I stood at the doorway to his closet where he sleeps instead of his lovely bed frame. I quietly announce that it’s time to light the Hanukkah candles, and he immediately jumped from his bed announcing it was time to light the menorah, and that we can’t be late.

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(Leadchanges, we can’t be late for our arbitrarily timed candle lighting ceremony!)

Oil takes a primary focus celebrating this holiday…I know that through the PJ Library books I’ve been reading to my children since babyhood. The mention of all the dietary traditions of Hanukkah leaves me with indigestion just thinking about it.

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(Askideas.com was considering the preparation of the oil laden Hanukkah treats too.)

But, the holiday really isn’t complete without latkes. I found a healthier baked version. This is my second year making them from the same recipe, and I have to say I’ve impressed myself. Traditions are all the better when guilt doesn’t accompany, and I can simply enjoy myself.

It’s a strange trip for me to think of and plan for these things, especially when I have no real memory of my own childhood celebrations. But, now I have children, and I want them to see themselves a Jews…however that might play out in their unfolding lives. The only thing I’m certain of is that there is little to no chance that my children will internalize a Jewish identity if it is absent from their upbringing. So, at some point soon they will go to Sunday school, hopefully understanding more of the religion through that process than I did. Eventually, they will attend Hebrew school as well. But, between now and then lies a whole lot of consideration…and learning. I’m prepared to not agree with everything my kids will be taught about Judaism. I’m fully aware that they may take or leave my lessons as they see fit once they begin adulting. That is their prerogative.

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