Renée Septimus is a social worker and Jewish educator. She lives with her husband Joe on Manhattans Upper West Side and is the very proud mom of four married children and a savta (that's Hebrew for grandmother) to a (growing) bunch of absolutely perfect grandchildren!
“Yikes!” I thought when I read Shyrla’s Pakua’s recent Kveller post on grandparenting. I was seriously shocked by the tone and content.
My experience as a grandmother, and grandchild, is…so very different from hers. Growing up, both sets of my grandparents lived around the corner and I was blessed to have spent time with them frequently. They were involved in my life and were wonderful role models for me once I became a grandmother. My husband worked long hours and I never had any… >> Read More
I miscarried my first pregnancy.
In those days, the 1970s, nobody talked about miscarriage, so I grieved in silence. Only my husband and my mother knew.
In those days, doctors told you to wait a…few months after a miscarriage before trying to get pregnant again. During those months, I found a lump in my breast. In those days, the doctors recommended waiting a few months to see if the lump would go away by itself--maybe it was an enlarged milk duct from the pregnancy, they suggested. It wasn’t. It… >> Read More
I refused to raise spoiled, entitled kids.
So for their 15th birthdays, I gave each of them a credit card.
They got to charge their expenses, and I paid for it.
I am a careful shopper and look…for quality at an off price. I was a Loehmann’s shopper, Filene’s shopper (may they rest in peace) and now I primarily shop in department stores or online when there are sales, clutching my additional discount coupons in my sweaty little hands. I taught my kids what my mother had taught me: Look for a… >> Read More
I have worked with retired “senior” adults for many years. The other day a woman I had never met came in sobbing about the loss of her mother over a year ago. This was not the first time I have…been surprised by the intensity of grief experienced by an older woman over the death of a very, very old mother. But it did pose the question: Can you be too close to your mother? A few weeks ago, the same thing happened with another woman in my office. Years earlier, someone else told me… >> Read More
OK, so maybe I’m not such a good mother.
I didn’t cry or sadly wave goodbye as my kids boarded the bus to camp.
I can’t even truthfully say I missed them all that much. It was four weeks…until Visiting Day and four weeks later they’d be home. When they went off to college, I was happy and excited for them. I spoke to them a couple of times a week and sometimes they’d come home from Manhattan, Philly, or Baltimore for Shabbos. I was proud that they were self-sufficient and doing well--in… >> Read More
When my generation, the Baby Boomers, was fighting for civil rights, for “women’s liberation” and to end the war in Viet Nam, it would have occurred to almost no one that the next frontier…would be gay rights. Who even knew what “homosexual” meant? Who could imagine that the “fag tag” on the back of our shirts contained what would one day be considered a pejorative? Who thought twice about using “gay” as a rhyme for a word ending in “ay” in poems and songs in our Modern Orthodox… >> Read More
Secrets are not good for a healthy family life.
Discretion is. But secrets are not.
I was already in my 30s when one of my closest friends, the daughter of my mother’s best friend, told me that…my grandmother had had multiple sclerosis and my own mother had a mild form of the same disorder. I remembered my grandmother being unable to walk, but my mother would never discuss why. If I asked, she’d say, “It doesn’t matter.” I remembered my mother having some vague difficulty when I was 16. She never… >> Read More
Too early that March morning, my mother came into our bedroom and told us, “You don’t have a Nana anymore.”
My sister and I sat up in bed, sleepy-eyed, and shocked into silence. We knew Nana…had been in the hospital, but we had no idea she could die. Although it is contrary to today’s thinking about children and death, I am still grateful that, at 9 years old, I did not go to my grandmother’s funeral. I know that forever after I would have thought of her suffocated in a… >> Read More
I recently read a New York Times article about one woman's unfavorable experiences in summer camp and laughed out loud.
Like the author, I was not much of a joiner and hated sports. I also…disliked getting dressed and undressed in a roomful of strangers. My first summer, I was the only girl still wearing undershirts so I’d change clothes in the bathroom. (Not that I fooled anyone. And most of those gals didn’t really need bras, either.) I sucked at anything involving a softball, volleyball, golf ball, basketball, fencing… >> Read More
morning some months ago, my husband, fatigued by minor surgery he had the day before, left the service in the main sanctuary of the synagogue and went into the small, empty chapel…downstairs. He lay down on his back on a pew and closed his eyes. Soon, he told me, he heard the voices of young children. “Do you think he’s dead?” “He might be sleeping.” “If he’s here next week, he’s dead.” After I finished choking with laughter, I expressed surprise that the kids seemed to… >> Read More
When I was a kid, we were told to look up to police officers, respect them, consider them our friends and protectors and, if we were ever lost, to find one. Still, I think many of us were actually…afraid of them. When I got to college, police officers were “pigs,” emblems of a corrupt establishment. These days, the whole thing seems more complicated. If I were the mother of an African-American son, I’d be terrified, certain that the police can go too far, as we saw with the “stop and frisk” policy in… >> Read More
One recent erev Shabbos (the night before Shabbat, Friday night) was special. My oldest granddaughter turned 3 and we had the opportunity to continue a family tradition through another…generation. On my own third birthday, my handsome, fun Poppa, who lived around the corner and whose delight in me I still remember and hold dear, brought me brass candlesticks so I could light Shabbos candles with my mother. I am the eldest grandchild, and he gave the same gift to each subsequent granddaughter at… >> Read More
My husband and I just celebrated a milestone anniversary--our 40th.
We married when we were 21 and 22, respectively, after meeting five years before in summer camp. In my senior year of high…school, even while dating other people, I knew I wanted to marry him. I didn’t have a “list” or set of criteria like so many women seem to have now. I didn’t analyze, intellectualize, or speculate on his earning potential or what kind of father he would be. I just jumped, taking a leap of… >> Read More
Giving birth was the most spiritual experience I ever had.
It was as if my body, mind and soul--my very being--was on high alert. I felt a new closeness to the man with whom I had fallen in love…years before and who was now the father of my child. I felt an intense identification with the Creator God, to whom I prayed each day, and who was our partner in the creation of the new life I had just pushed from my body. But as a religious Jewish woman, I was disappointed that… >> Read More
To gear up for the High Holidays this year, we’re asking our writers and readers for their Rosh Hashanah Resolution. Here’s one from Kveller writer Renee Septimus.
Now that I am not such a…“young” grandmother,” I resolve to accept my physical self for what I have become: laugh lines edge my eyes, I see a slight sag in my neck, and there is surely lots of gray under the auburn colored hair. My pieces and parts have re-distributed in such a way that I don’t recognize my body… >> Read More
Today, there are no heroes.
We had Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, and Willis Reed. My grandchildren have A-Rod, Ryan Braun, and Lance Armstrong.
We had Martin Luther King, Jr. and JFK. Today, we have…David Petraeus and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Not to mention Anthony Wiener and Elliot Spitzer. We had Golda Meir, Gloria Steinem, and Bella Abzug. Today’s young women have Sarah Palin and Sheryl Sandberg. No more heroes, no more larger-than-life figures. Now everyone’s clay feet (or entire clay bodies) are revealed. (Unlike the miscreants during my youth,… >> Read More
We married young, had children young, and by the time I was 31, we had two children in yeshiva day school. My husband worked long, hard hours and I was a stay-at-home mom for 18 years, the right…decision for our family. We paid for private schools, including Ivy League colleges, for four children as well as a master's and a doctoral degree. We managed to pay off the loans about two years ago and left our kids with no debt. I don't know how we did it and I often consider that… >> Read More
There has been a lot on Kveller about books for Jewish children but I have not seen any mention of my own favorites. So, after decades of reading to my children and grandchildren, here are my own top…10 picks for you to share with the children you love (between the ages of 3-8, all available on Amazon): 1. Yussel's Prayer retold by Barbara Cohen: The story of a young cowherd and his simple Yom Kippur prayer. When my children were small, we read this every year on Yom Kippur night. 2. The… >> Read More
I got the sandwich orders from my children for our Septimus family picnic. I substituted rainbow bagels for the plain bagels for the little kids. When I called my younger daughter to clarify…something, she said, “Are you getting rainbow bagels because my siblings ordered them or because you’re giving the kids a treat?” “It’s a treat,” I replied. “You never would have gotten them for us [her and her siblings],” she said accusingly. “You would have told us they caused cancer.” She was right. My husband and… >> Read More
First they leave your body, then they leave your breast, then your bed.
The next thing you know they're on a bus to sleep-away camp.
Adina Soclof's recent piece about sending her child off to camp…resonated with me. Only I will be sending my grandsons off to camp. Well, actually, their parents will be. I just can't believe it. I vividly remember standing at the bus stop sending their mom, my oldest child, off to camp. I didn't feel teary but I felt disoriented, almost confused. Why weren't I and… >> Read More
I wish the song had been, "We saw your balls!"
Seth MacFarlane, an Oscars host only a 12-year-old boy could love, chose to sing a puerile (and insulting) song listing the actresses whose mammary…glands he gleefully got to see this past year at the movies. You know, I've had it. In today's culture, either women's bodies are sexualized to the point that none of us can feel sexy, or they are derided as objects of fun. In any case, enough is really more than enough. What's the deal… >> Read More
Okay, so I know I've always been somewhat of a prude but…really?
My friend described a wedding shower she recently went to where the theme seemed to be "sexy underwear" and even the cookies had…icing in the shape of bras and panties. Lingerie is the gift of choice at these events and everyone hoots and hollers when the nighties are held up for inspection. I heard about a bachelorette party in a bar in which the bride-to-be had pretzels pinned to her shirt and the other girls had to… >> Read More
Ronnie's post last week about accidents sure brought back memories!
We've all been where she was (or we will be)--speechless with terror that, because we weren't watching for that half a second, or…that we didn't react quickly enough, our child was hurt. But, believe me, the child will recover a lot faster than we will as we struggle to forgive ourselves. My first son somehow got to the deodorant pellet in the lid of the diaper pail, which held his soiled cloth diapers (yes, yes, we had… >> Read More
Tamara's experience of Friday night,
, is very different than my own. To me, as a young child, Friday night was extra special precisely because my father was always there.
When I was…a kid, my father traveled for business. He would leave on Sunday night, my mother, siblings, and I tearfully waving him off as he waited for the elevator. He would return Friday morning or late Thursday night. Every single week for as long as I can remember. I didn't see him much, actually. In those… >> Read More
In my opinion, it is always wrong to spank your children. Even a single shmeits (Yiddish, slap).
And let's call it what it is: spanking means hitting. "Giving a spanking" means hitting…repeatedly. It is an abuse of parental power and teaches the use of physical violence to solve problems. In my own experience, I remember the few times I hit my kids. And I was wrong. I don't recall spanking daughter #1 (and neither does she) but my husband spanked her hard once when she was… >> Read More