Melissa Cohen is a mom and freelance writer living in central MA. She and her husband have three children together in addition to her husband's two daughters from his first marriage. Their kids are 19, 17, 15, 12, and 8 years old. She also recently rescued a puppy who's life mission appears to be eating ALL the pens. She's a Jewish convert, still celebrates Christmas, and braids six string challah loaves like a professional. Melissa has been blogging since 2008 at melissaannecohen.com, and has been published in CJVoices, InterfaithFamily, Mothering, and BlogHer.
When I met and married my husband, the fact that he had two daughters from his first marriage was an asset. I like kids. Kids like me. My mother is also a stepmother, and I am both a stepdaughter and…a stepsister. I've got a TON of experience at this. In other words, I was blithely confident that being a stepmother would come naturally. And I was wrong. What I learned is that being a stepmother is not even a little bit natural. It can be one of the most complicated and confusing relationships, because… >> Read More
I lost my son yesterday. It was only for 10 minutes, but still. We were at the apple orchard, and I had stopped to take a picture of my youngest daughter by the morning glories. When I looked up from…my phone, my son had gone. There were hundreds of people around — kids and carriages and grandparents and stands with kettle corn, pre-picked fruit, and pumpkins. It was chaos, and I had no idea where he was. Here’s the thing: My son isn't a toddler. He's 12 years old. But he is visually impaired,… >> Read More
"I'm so scared for your synagogue,” my (non-Jewish) mother said to me as we were driving the other day. We were talking about my daughter's schedule — religious school was on the agenda for that…afternoon — and she had asked me about our synagogue’s security following the terrible attack in Pittsburgh. I was silent for a minute, and then told her that I'm scared all the time now. I'm scared when I go to the library; I’m scared when I go to the mall. I hesitate before I get… >> Read More
I don’t know what to tell my 8-year-old.
My 15-year-old was the one who told me about the horrific shooting a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday morning. She's got her phone set up for auto alerts…from CNN, so she had the details before I did. Which isn't unusual for her, she monitors the news, the commentary, the analysis. She's not shocked or surprised — or even all that phased by it, really. This is what she's used to. Since 2016 world, my girl lost her political innocence. People shoot Jews.… >> Read More
"Sound off!" I'd yell it periodically as we moved through the museum (or the zoo, or headed to the park). And one by one, all five would yell off their numbers — or some version of it. I’d…answer for the youngest, who was strapped in a baby carrier or toddling next to me. With five kids, I couldn't always physically lay eyes on them all at once, but I could hear them. My husband and I have three kids together, and he's got two from his first marriage. When our youngest was born,… >> Read More
My son was in a biking accident a few years ago, and he developed a pseudotumor. They're incredibly rare, especially in an active 9-year-old boy. He had been wearing a helmet, but developed a…concussion anyway. He also developed the pseudotumor, but because they are so rare, because it was so unexpected, it went undiagnosed for weeks while the pain got worse and worse. Once it was diagnosed, he had a terrible reaction to the medication that was supposed to treat it, and his appetite dwindled down slowly to… >> Read More
I'm a Jewish convert. My path to conversion was long and complicated, and I've struggled with fitting into Jewish culture, and balancing my childhood traditions with a chosen religious tradition…that's very, very different. But one thing I've never struggled with is my belief in God. I didn't convert specifically because I was married to a Jewish man, but the fact that I was raising Jewish children was a different story. I wanted them to have a strong spiritual foundation. I wanted them to own their… >> Read More
My two daughters share a room. They're 14 and almost 7, so it's not an easy match, but our house is our house, and so they share a room. It's mostly my older daughter's stuff everywhere—she's got…jewelry boxes and perfume and as much makeup as I'll allow. My younger daughter has a playroom for her dollhouses and baby dolls, her arts and crafts and her desk. I was cleaning their room today (I know, I should make them do it, but I always loved when my mother cleaned my room for… >> Read More
My youngest went to preschool at the local JCC. She didn't like preschool, at least not the first year. She cried and spent most of her time up in the loft playhouse, watching the kids playing…below. Her teachers assured me that she was fine after I left—that she was an observer, paid attention to everything, and seemed perfectly content. I'd walk her in, two mornings a week, pick out a book for her to read, and make sure that she had the little stuffed koala bear that was her constant… >> Read More
I’m a veteran of the December Dilemma wars.
I’ve written about it for years, with exhaustive, ruminative blog posts. Every December, my holiday tradition has involved putting up a Christmas…tree, finding enough Hanukkah candles for all of the menorahs (seriously, does everyone light 15 menorahs or is that just me?), and fighting with my husband, my poor mother, and myself. Everyone has an opinion about my holiday celebration: was I celebrating too much Christmas? Not enough? Was I sending mixed messages to my Jewish… >> Read More
It was a sunny afternoon, the first nice one of the year. I made my kids go outside. My 5-year-old was game, as she usually is. Hand her a bucket of chalk and she’s good to go. My 9-year-old was a…little more reluctant, as the lure of Minecraft was strong. “It’s too nice of a day to be inside.” It was my mother’s voice I heard coming out of my mouth, but it worked. He got up, put on his helmet, and took his bike outside. I started cleaning out my minivan. After a long… >> Read More
This year on Mother's Day, I'm grateful for my non-Jewish mother.
I'm a Jewish convert, raising a Jewish family. It's not an easy decision to raise your family within a tradition that is very…different from your own. It's hard not to take the choice personally, as a parent. To not feel as though you are being rejected, that the choices you made for your own family were somehow lacking or not good enough to be continued into the next generation. My journey through conversion wasn't easy or without… >> Read More
I want to raise my children with a strong sense of spirituality and connection to their Jewish heritage. But I'm struggling with the reality that my children do not like going to religious school,…and have only a passing interest in attending services with me. They love going to the synagogue, just not so much actually participating. There is a lot of arguing about going to Hebrew school, and why it's a good idea to occasionally step into services, as opposed to just wrestling with your friends in the… >> Read More
Most synagogues offer some sort of kid-friendly service once a month or so. It's called "Tot Shabbat" and it's aimed at kids that are too little for religious school but too old to doze in their…parents arms during services. >> Read More
The question of whether or not to raise our children Jewish wasn't one that my husband and I ever clearly articulated--but it's what's happening.
I came late to the party, as far as…Judaism is concerned. I didn't convert formally until I was in my mid-30s, and by then I had already had my first child. It’s not that we didn’t talk before we had children--we did, endlessly. Neither one of us wanted to give up our traditions, and we both wanted to raise our kids to honor… >> Read More
I'm scared, and I have no idea how, or if, I should be sharing this fear with my children. With my daughter, specifically. She's seven months away from her bat mitzvah. Luckily, it's…summer vacation and she's not watching the news all that much. She's not on Facebook like I am, with a newsfeed filled with reports of violence in Paris and endless updates about what's happening in Israel. See, I'm new to being Jewish. I wonder sometimes, five years after converting, if I'll always feel somewhat new to being Jewish.… >> Read More
My husband Marc was Jewish, I was not. We hadn't decided, not entirely, what that would mean for our kids. We already had a 3-year-old daughter, and she was happily celebrating Christian and Jewish…holidays with both sides of our extended family. But having a son made any theoretical discussion suddenly incredibly real. For Marc, the idea that we wouldn't circumcise our infant son wasn't an option. It was an absolute. This wasn't a topic for discussion, not like whether or not we'd have a Christmas tree or should… >> Read More
It's sort of accepted lore by everyone that you must choose one religion to raise your children. Kids will be confused, it's a watering down of both traditions, and in the end, by not choosing one…tradition, you're in essence choosing no tradition that your child will be fully comfortable in. Don't do both--do just one. If you're Jewish, BE Jewish. Do it all the way. And if you are going to do it halfway, at least acknowledge that you are going to have hopeless, confused, and bewildered kids, with no… >> 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 our writer Melissa Cohen.
I've got three children, and for…the first time this fall, all three of them will be in school. Granted, my 3-year-old will be at preschool only two mornings a week, but it's more than just the time. I'm suddenly at a point where I don't have a baby anymore. I'm not pregnant, I'm still nursing a nominal amount, but my… >> Read More
Shabbat was what sold me on Judaism in the first place. As a convert, it's always been my favorite part of being Jewish. It was the first thing about Judaism that felt like it was mine, the first…thing that made me feel like I wasn't just doing it for someone else, this was what I wanted. For me, for my husband, and for my kids. It's the foundation for me, it's what keeps me grounded in Judaism. I don't speak Hebrew or Yiddish, the emphasis on the Torah is sometimes confusing to… >> Read More
My daughter is in fourth grade, and believe it or not, it's actually time to start thinking about her bat mitzvah.
When I was pregnant with her, I couldn't fathom how she'd be able to have any kind…of clear religious identity. Wouldn't she feel torn between her Jewish father and my own hard-to-describe-but-still-incredibly-important-to-me spiritual beliefs? She was the springboard for me to learn about Judaism in the first place. And it feels like it was just the other day that I realized she thought of herself as Jewish the way she considered… >> Read More