As soon as the ultrasound revealed that my wife, Abi, was pregnant with a boy, I started worrying about the bris. Not worrying about who would perform it, or where we would order the cold cuts from, but about the conversation I would inevitably have to have with Abi about the fact that I didn’t want our son to have one.
Being an accomplished catastrophist, I have a knack (and a formalized strategy) for making things seem worse than they actually are, and when it finally came time to have the dreaded summit with Abi about the dissection of my future son’s penis, it didn’t go anything like I had anticipated. It wasn’t stilted or awkward or painful, it wasn’t violent or even dramatic. I said, “Look—I don’t want Elijah to have a bris. It’s a medical procedure and it should be done in a hospital by a physician.”
She patted me on the shoulder and replied, “Gabe, I know you hate being Jewish; it’s OK. We’re having a bris and that’s it.” Read the rest of this entry →
My son’s bar mitzvah was three years in the making–ever since he told me his “good news”: that he “wanted to be Jewish.” This was only about nine months after I adopted him and his older brother from Brazil, as they were turning 9 and 12 years old. Though he had barely mastered the English language, my son Davi was anxious to start learning yet another language… and Hebrew, no less.
To change over from their previous beliefs in and practices of the Christian faith in favor of becoming Jewish was not an expectation I had for either of my sons. I wanted their religion to be their decision–more important to me was that my sons be spiritually connected, and live a just and moral life. Davi’s decision took me completely by surprise. There were no real clues about his thinking beforehand, yet once he started out, he never looked back. Read the rest of this entry →
The 20th-century philosopher Fred Rogers said, “My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts.” Then he put on his sweater and changed into sneakers.
Maybe I can come clean to Noah and the world that this parenting thing is pretty darn challenging. That I have no idea what to do quite a bit of the time.
Another modern philosopher, Louis Szekely, albeit from a different school of philosophy than Mr. Rogers, has his own take on this: “It’s hard having kids because it’s boring….They read Clifford the Big Red Dog to you at a rate of fifty minutes a page and you have to sit there and be horribly proud and bored at the same time.” Szekely, also known as Louis C.K., certainly speaks his mind. Read the rest of this entry →
My daughter’s preschool teacher has created a daily task in which we, the parents, write “mitzvah notes” for our children each day. These notes are meant to describe the ways in which our children are helpful, cooperative, or did good deeds. The notes are read in class with the children, who, I am told, are excited to hear and discuss the good things they have done.
I must admit that when I first learned about this task, I considered it a burden. How, I wondered, could we be expected to come up with a good deed that our 3-year-old did each day? Have you ever met a 3-year-old? I knew it would be far easier to rattle off “not so mitzvah notes,” like so:
You are coming soon. And when you arrive, we will bless you. But for whom is this blessing? Is it for you? Or is it for us?
I can already feel the moment. It’s January, and the wind is leaking through the window. Your mother will be spent, and in the drafty night, crankily demand that I try to soothe you.
You will be at my shoulder, both of us stuck between sleep and alertness, barely able to see.
And then will come my blessing for you, remembering how my father and I recited the Shema together before bed. We would name each aunt, each uncle, each cousin, and then finish with a patriotic flourish that invited God to look after “all the Jewish people, the United States, and all Earth.”
My wife and I often talk about how fascinating it would be to be flies on the wall at our daughter’s Jewish preschool. It’s the ultimate parent fantasy–to see how your children behave when you’re out of sight. At home, we take delight in those few moments when our 3-year-old daughter cozies up in a corner of our apartment reading to herself; creating a story with toy figures or stuffed animals, unaware as we watch from a doorway.
As parents, we see our children in all of their many phases and moods.
And it is precisely because we are their parents that they feel
comfortable enough to scream and tantrum and test us in many ways
as they learn life’s boundaries and the limits of their autonomy
during childhood. But then (as if it’s a minor miracle) there are
those moments when our children are so sweet, inquisitive,
insightful, or loving, and I’m pretty sure this is how my daughter
behaves most of the day at preschool.
So, I want to take kvelling to the next level.
Imagine if I could be reduced to my daughter’s size and attend
preschool with her.
What fun I could have filling my days with coloring, painting, and
sculpting clay next to my daughter. We could build with blocks, read
wonderful books for the first time, and make first friends. There’s
also this thing called naptime. NAP TIME. Did you hear that? I need
more of that in my life.
When I was a kid, my mother was the only one in our apartment who would ever even attempt to make repairs. The rest of us would hover around her like tribesmen watching their Medicine Man heal a baby. And my mom was the one who would tighten light switch plates using the edge of a butter knife because we didn’t own a flat head screwdriver. Thus the only thing I entered adulthood knowing how to fix was a martini. And trying to repair anything else made me want that martini.
So as Sukkot rolled around, there was no way my daughter could have known how stressful it was for me to decide to build a sukkah. She stood next to me on our deck, wearing an eager smile and brand new Cinderella work gloves. I should note that it was her enthusiasm that landed me in this spot in the first place. Her Sunday School teacher had asked if anyone’s family was planning to build a sukkah, and almost all of her friends raised a hand. I recall it was the manner in which she later asked me that made it impossible for me to say no–it was so adult.
If your Facebook was anything like ours, it seems the new Father’s Day tradition is to post as many cute pictures of dads and kids as you can. We asked you send in your favorite photos over the weekend, and you definitely delivered in the cute department! Check out the slideshow below to see amazing photos of dads with kids–from then and now. If you’d like to add your own picture to the slideshow, it’s not too late to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!