Monthly Archives: May 2008

To My Sweet Boy on His Sixth Birthday

How the time has flown since that May day

When we welcomed you into our family

You were pulled kicking and screaming into the world

At 4.01 pm, Tuesday afternoon, 6 years ago today,

Weighing in at a hefty 5lbs 12 oz – 18 inches of pure perfection!

You were the easiest baby to take care of

So content and happy, barely cried,

Satisfied to sit in your bouncy chair and watch the big boys

And how they loved to entertain you.

Your baby smiles lit up the room

And caused my heart to perpetually swell with joy.

Your snuggles have improved with age,

Even tho these days you’re not as round and pudgy

As you were back then

But you still give good huggles.

I have watched you grow over the last few years

And been honoured to be a part of it.

You say the sweetest things

And constantly sing to me how much you love me

I particularly love how you say

“Ima, you know I love you” when you know you are in trouble

(I think a certain brother of yours has been giving you lessons

In softening your mother up……)

I love how you lean into me in that special way

When we wait for the elevator on the way to school

And throw your arms around me and just sigh happily.

One of your latest sayings gives me a laugh everytime I hear it

“Ima, here’s a kiss, and it has a thousand kisses inside it”

This has now been dubbed the pregnant kiss.

I love how at night you need a hug AND a cuddle

And only you know how they differ

Most nights you need at least 6 of each

But you always get as many as you want.

You’ve recently told me that the days of kissing you

In front of your friends are over

That you want to keep that private.

My baby is growing up.

You still look at the world with a fresh perspective

Your eyes full of wonder at the beauty of nature.

You still have that pure innocence about you.

 

I pray, today, that you will continue along this path

Of learning, of becoming a wonderful human being

That you continue to grow your generous spirit

And that your thirst for knowledge is never quenched.

There will always be more to learn

More to do

And Sweetpea, dear child of my heart, please know

Anything that you put your mind to you will achieve

You can do it all, you can succeed in everything.

Most of all, sweet child, I wish you continued joy

Enjoy all that life has to give

Cherish each and every moment for the blessings that they bring.

 

Dear heart, today and every day I love you

I am blessed to be your mother, and I am proud to call you Son.

Going Barmy with the Barmitzvah

My eldest child is soon to be barmitzvahed. I am still in denial that I hit my thirties quite a while ago, so the idea that my oldest is going to be 13 has taken me by surprise. Talk about a kick in the posterior with a pointy shoe. Many shabbatot this past year have been spent attending barmitzvot of all his friends, and taking mental notes what I want at his barmitzvah and what I don’t want. Of course, then there is what he wants, and really, as a 12 year old with no money and experience and life skills to contribute to the endeavour, all he really needs to do is read his parshah and wear his suit and allow the elderly female relatives to kiss him and pinch his cheek. Obviously his mother won’t be kissing him because that would just be too majorly embarrassing. Euw, Ima……

 

He is to become a man. Now, isn’t that interesting phraseology.  Becoming a man. From one day to the next. He goes to sleep a boy and wakes up as a man. Halachically it may be so. He becomes responsible for his mitzvot and aveirot, and his father and I no longer have to suffer the spiritual consequences if he makes a wrong move. (not that he would, for of course he is the perfect child….). I have also been informed that once he has turned 13 he no longer HAS to listen to me. Trust me kid, if you want to be fed and clothed and nurtured and taken care of, and have a peaceful family life, and have access to batteries, you will remember who it is who does everything for you and you will listen to me, even though you don’t have to, geddit?!  So this man that he becomes – do 13 year old boys grow a responsibility gene overnight? Where is the microchip implanted? Can we do a pre-emptive implant in the others so that their prepubescent years won’t be so bad?  They become teenagers not men – there is a huge difference between the two.

 

13 and they know everything – and apparently it only gets worse! He wants to feel that he has some control over the whole barmitzvah process, and we all know that in reality he doesn’t. In a previous post I talked about the whole head covering thing. My son asked that for the barmitzvah I wear a sheitel. Initially I said “why don’t I wear a hat, a huge hat, with huge feathers, that will cover my hair – it serves the purpose” – but I guess that would be immodest of me, as in our shul that would draw tremendous attention. (not that that would necessarily be a bad thing) And, that would make it about me, not about the barmy boy and it would totally have embarrassed him (so tempted). So off I trotted and plunked down an obscene amount of money for a furry thing to wear on my head because it would make my son happy. He liked my choice. It happens to look good, btw, but I feel it could be a step back onto the slippery slope of head covering. Shock horror!

 

Cue the outfit. Now for you of the male species out there, you wear a suit, a shirt and a tie and you are done. If you want to go fancy you wear French cuffs with fancy cufflinks. Big whoop! No need to think of colour schemes, of matching shoes and purses, what kind of panty hose you have to wear with that skirt so none of your “topographical pregnancy souvenirs” show up to steal attention. I am flamboyant, I like to make statements with my mode of dress, I don’t fade into the background, and I very rarely dress conservatively. When I do my friends don’t recognize me. I like who I am and I make no apologies. So there! My son is almost 13. Everything I do has the potential to embarrass him. I have to remind myself that the BM is about him not me, so flamboyance and embarrassment are not really an option here BUT I don’t want to lose who I am in making my son happy. Luckily, being a woman, there are plenty of options available in fashion that bridge the gap between what he wants and what I want, tho thankfully neither of us wanted me to wear a burka. I found an outfit that pleases both of us. It would please G-d too, if I may presume. It covers everything it is supposed to cover, hides the stuff I want hidden, isn’t black, isn’t a sinful red, is classy and elegant, AND I can wear gold shoes with it (of course it’s about the shoes!! Duh!! I am woman, see my shoes).

 

The other kids are a hoot – “do we really have to wear monkey suits?” So I told them it was a choice between a suit and a dress and seeing as they are male people, they very wisely chose suits. I talked about colour coordinating the waistcoats in jewel tones – somehow I lost them. I don’t get it!

 

Its amazing how one milestone takes over everything. Most conversations these days around the dinner table have at least ten references to the barmitzvah. My barmitzvah note book is overflowing with lists and scraps of paper. Planning this thing is like a military operation. But at least there is no opposition to fight with – not like we are planning a wedding or anything!

 

I know that as soon as this BM is over, and all the wanted guests go home (and hopefully the unwanted ones too…) I cannot sit back on my laurels and have a self congratulatory love fest. Nope. See, when you have kids close in age, there is no rest. BM #2 is 13 months after #1. But son #2 is quite happy at not being first – “You can make all the planning mistakes with my brother, so by the time it’s my barmitzvah it will all be perfect”. Cannot fault his logic, now, can you? Makes me wonder what mistakes we have actually made in son #1s lifetime that gave #2 this insight……

 

Well, I guess the upside of this all is that the kid feels the centre of the universe for a moment in time, and the memories he has will last him a lifetime. They’d better, the amount of effort that’s going into this! Now where did I put my list of lists?

If I cover my hair will that draw attention to me?

In the Torah – Bamidbar 5.18 – it talks about the Sotah – a woman suspected of adultery – who is made to uncover her hair. The rabbis extrapolated from this that a woman back in the day kept her hair covered as a general rule. Therefore Jewish married women are commanded to cover their hair. The Shulchan Aruch commands a man not to pray or recite blessings if there is a woman in front of him with a “tefach”(4 inches) of skin uncovered that would usually be covered, this applies to hair as well as it is considered part of the body that is normally not seen. I could cite many more sources that say the same or similar. I will point out though, that at the time of all these discussions, it was the societal norm for women of all faiths to cover their heads, not just the Jewish women.

 

I have heard all the arguments for hair covering, and indeed I covered my hair for the whole 12 years I was married. I had as much fun with it as I could. I wore snoods and berets, bandannas and tichels, and had many different styles and colours of wigs. Yet I hated it at a purely visceral level. I felt as if I stuck out, as if by the mere fact of acting modestly by covering my hair, that I was drawing attention to myself  – exactly the opposite of what modest behaviour is about. (I will be the first to admit that I love attention, but for the right reasons.) This contradiction bothers me still, although my outlook has changed somewhat with the benefit of time’s passage. I now know that I cannot control what other people may think when they look at me. I could walk around in a burka and I am sure there would be someone somewhere who would find that simply irresistible.

 

The sheitels (wigs) that some women wear these days seem to defeat the whole purpose of kisui rosh (head covering). A woman’s hair is representative of her beauty, and therefore a married woman covers it so that her beauty is not shown to other men other than her husband. These custom sheitels that cost thousands of dollars potentially draw more attention than the woman’s own hair would attract. But apparently, the idea is also to remind the wig wearer that she is married, even if it looks like she is wearing her own hair. She knows that she is wearing a wig and will therefore be reminded to act in a modest fashion as befits her status as a married woman. She will want to contemplate her inner beauty when her outer beauty is covered. What about married men, don’t they need reminding sometimes that they are “taken”, especially as most men in the religious world do not wear wedding rings? Don’t they need to look to their inner selves?

 

When I received my Get I did not come home, rip off my wig and state that never again would I cover my hair. It took me a couple of weeks of deep thought and contemplation to come to the decision that I felt it was no longer appropriate for me to wear a head covering.  I covered my hair during my marriage because that was what my spouse had requested, not because it was the right thing to do. I was no longer married, so why did my hair need to be covered? So people should know that I had been married? Oh please, the kids that are constantly underfoot are proof enough of that.   I have always been respectful of my surroundings, and always cover my hair in shul and at religious functions, and at times, I cover my hair so as not to make my kids feel as if they stick out like a sore thumb. In fact, even though I say I do not cover my hair, it is covered a lot of the time – car pool, Shabbat, barmitzvahs, weddings, etc. But there are times – grocery shopping, doctor appointments and the like, where I feel the wind on my scalp and feel free.

 

There are some modern Rabbis who have ruled that a divorced woman is allowed to uncover her hair if she believes it will help her chances for another shidduch, and some that say she can uncover her hair but only after she moves to a different town. Some say not at all, that she may as well walk around naked. I guess it all depends on who you ask IF you ask. I needed to do what was right for me and my emotional state at that point in time. Maybe one could even argue, that uncovering my hair was showing my grief for the end of my marriage. After all there is no shiva when a marriage has died / failed.

 

I have been judged by a few and told that I was ruining my children’s reputation by not covering my hair, and what kind of example am I setting for them etc. I don’t do things for other people to see and applaud. If I am going to do a mitzvah I will do it because I want to, because I desire that spiritual connection with G-d. I don’t give a fig about what everyone else thinks. I think society these days is so concerned with what others will think that we lose sight of the real picture. Religion and spirituality is first and foremost about the relationship between a person and their deity – and that is a private and personal relationship. I wonder if G-d really cares what colour my skirt is, or if I am wearing panty hose. Doesn’t He see through all the outer trappings into the soul within? If I am comfortable in the summer in my barelegged-ness and therefore more able to serve G-d b’Simcha (with joy) – isn’t that more important than sweating like a pig and grumbling about doing a mitzvah in the heat of the day.

 

Is what I wear on my head more important than what is in my heart? I know there are reasons why we do all these things, some due to custom, some to law, but is it really fair to call someone religious based on the way they dress? Is behaviour not more important? Religious to me means someone who does their best every single day to serve Hashem and keep His laws. There are many “frum” people sitting in jails all over this continent. I don’t think of these people as religious, to me religious means honest. It has nothing to do with dress codes. Being religious means adhering to a code of decent upstanding behaviour.

 

I have been asked many times since the big “reveal” if I will cover my hair when/if I remarry. Initially I said no no no, no way no how, not for all the tea in China. I do not want to be shackled again doing something for the wrong reasons. BUT I have more knowledge now, and if I choose to cover my hair, I will be doing it because I feel it is the right thing to do, because it is something that I want to do, and is not being foisted on me by my potential spouse and the society in which I live. I am not afraid to be different. Those who know me know that I do not care what people think of me.

 

I have grown in my spirituality in the last couple of years, I really feel as if I have renewed my connection with Hashem, on my own terms, as a woman, as a mother, as a person. Any decision I make now brings with it the benefit of hindsight, and of understanding my own personal journey. It is for no one but G-d to judge me and my motivations. He sees what is in my heart. It is Him I strive to serve with the best of my abilities. If in the fullness of time I decide to cover my hair, it will be because I believe it to be the right thing for me as a Jewish woman.

 

I am very interested in your views on this topic – please don’t hesitate to share them with me here.