This means I get a lot of mature questions from a not very mature vocabulary or set of linguistics. Meaning: his brain is almost 5 but his vocabulary and sentence structure and the notion of speaking itself is still catching up.
This presents as the following: I get a ton of adorable great questions about where babies come from, why is the sun sunny, what is body hair for, and things like that. It’s wonderful to see how Fred’s brain has been working all of this time and has been waiting for his language to emerge organically.
The other day we were leaving the house of friends of ours. They are not Jewish and have Christmas lights still up from Christmas as decoration which I never thought about until Fred asked if they are “half-vegan.” Um…?
I explained that they are “all vegan” and I asked why he thought they were half-vegan. He said very simply, “Them have Christmas lights.” Oh. Right. He thinks vegan and Jewish are the same thing. Okay. Time to back this train up.
My older son looked at me as if to say, “This poor kid, he’s so green,” as I explained to Fred that usually being “half” something refers to, for example, if one parent is Jewish and the other is not but that in this case, our friends are “all vegan.”
I also underscored the point that being Jewish has nothing to do with being vegan. I told him that some Jews are vegan, and some Jews aren’t. And in the same way, some non-Jews are vegan (like our friends) and some non-Jews are not vegan. He nodded solemnly.
Fred took my vegan explanation as the perfect time to announce his next deep thought which was the following: he’s homeschooled because he’s vegan. Um…yeah. No. Some homeschoolers are vegan and some are not. And some kids who are not homeschooled are vegan, and some are not.
I find it so interesting how small people want so badly to categorize and have an identity in meaningful ways based on the information they readily have at their disposal. We adults do the same but in more significant and life-changing ways: who is wealthy and who is not? Who breastfeeds and who doesn’t? Who is able to get married and who is not?
I wish that the distinctions were always as easy as they can be for Fred: we’re Jewish, we’re vegan, we homeschool. But the distinctions get infinitely more complicated and that’s okay, too. I hope to emphasize the ways we are alike rather than the ways we are different, while still appreciating the uniqueness of our identities.
This is something I learned from my Rabbi at UCLA Hillel, actually. Judaism is both universal and particularist. We don’t need to pick what we “are.” We can be part of something big and universal and also appreciate our uniqueness without flaunting it. It’s how we can try to be a “light among nations;” to use the things about us that can reach out to more than just our circle and those “like us.”
I hope so.