Nettles update: eight months

Things have been moving quickly, and by things I mean Nettles.

Aside from the getting across the floor, entering other rooms, and eating whatever didn’t make it into the garbage can, I finally acknowledged your need to climb things. So the overturned laundry basket is now yours.

How are those two little front teeth coming along? We know they’re in there. Under that wiggly, pointy tongue of yours.

(I like to manipulate it on Friday nights by giving you spoons of grape juice and watching you tiny tongue peek out like a kitten’s.)

You don’t mind wearing hats. That’s kind of new. Winter’s coming after all.

And speaking of heads… are you growing curls?

The hair-pulling really hurts. So does getting slapped in the face.

But back to the hair pulling. Bebe is really patient with you right now, but please realize that won’t always be the case.

On that note, I think from what we can see so far, you are really lucky with what you got in a brother and sister. Koala’s concern, Bebe’s coddling. They’re both so excited when you reach a new milestone, show a new trick. They cheer you on. They feed you while I try to get them fed. They teach you. They even tell on you (it’s a good sign, they’re including you).

And they’re lucky because you happily and easily and enthusiastically offer feedback. You respond, you admit, you engage. Your eyes will brighten when you want them to ‘do it again!’ and you’ll laugh hardily when they’ve gone that extra mile to please you. You’ll even offer a pity giggle when it’s warranted.

You’re always, but always, down for a cuddle.

 

Is it possible to raise modern kids with a less gendered tone? And other thoughts on my tzitzit-wearing daughter

Here’s how my kids tell it:

This morning, Koala offered Bebe a pair of tzitzit to wear today. Note that this on the heels of last week’s Bebe deciding to wear a kippa to gan (and actually doing it the whole day – I was more impressed hair-wise!).

So Bebe accepted his offer. I walked into their bedroom and found her putting them on, over an undershirt, before her sweatshirt. She looked up, beaming.

“I’m wearing tzitzit!”

And I was beaming too, and kinda chuckling, and before I could say anything, she was blessing them. Correctly. Standing there, shuckling, holding the strings in both hands.

I dutifully replied, “Amen!”

The rest of the morning I waited for her to ask to take them off. When we got downstairs she was only emboldened. She took out one of Koala’s old kippot and put it on. She repeated the blessing for the tzitzit and danced around the room. Somewhere between walking Koala to gan and following Bebe to hers, the kippa came off – it was too big and bothersome. But I watched Bebe stride into her gan, greet her teachers, and walk off to see her friends. Confidently.

Later, I asked her – very delicately – if during gan prayers she had said the bracha on the tzitzit. This orthodox-religious gan is located in a very secular-traditional town, with a generally pluralistic (for national religious lite) religious community. The staff are either dati leumi or traditional mizrahi.

I was trying not to put a spin on her experience. She reported matter-of-factly that she had said the bracha – and proceeded to recite it again. I asked, “with the boys?” She replied, “the boys said [insert mumble mumble ‘mitzvat tzitzit’] and then the girls said [insert mumble mumble ‘k’riztono’] and I said the bracha on the tzitzit.”

So let’s get this out right here: This is way less about religion for me than it is about gendered experiences. I don’t wear a talit, I don’t wear a kippa, hell, I barely pray and when I do it’s not to who you might think.

My three-year-old daughter, any way you slice it, is not considering God’s law when she is trying out new things. She’s curious about clothing and ritual. She’s testing out what other kids do. She’s figuring out boys and girls. She wants to be like her older brother. She’s heard me say boys can have ponytails and girls can have short haircuts.

She wants to be involved.

So she’s feeling it out.

That’s how I see it. Is it a sign that my attempts at toning down gender expectations are working?

I mean, there is so much to beat back. So much, it hurts. The colors, from birth. The clothing that reads ‘Daddy’s little girl!’ or ‘Boys get dirty!’ The behavior expectations. The princesses and ninjas. The kinds of activities on offer. The words directed at them. The way we praise. The way we criticize.

Involvement. Involvement in ritual, in activities, in anything we desire to try.

How much of kids is who they were born as, and how much is the way we’ve sorted them into genderized compartments?

I don’t think we should ban princesses or force boys to take ballet. I wouldn’t deny my son the opportunity to be a Ninja Turtle on Purim and, gulp, my daughter to try her hand at princessing any given year. Turns out, of all the chugim I offered them for the year, Koala wanted soccer and Bebe absolutely loves her ballet class.

So it’s in the little things – the things they ask about, the things they want to try, the questions they ask – that I try my hardest to leave it objective. So they can choose their involvement.

And are my tiny efforts going to make a difference?

Perhaps now that I have children – or perhaps the times I’m parenting in – probably both – I can’t help but see instances, trends, expectations in my childhood that molded me to be a certain way. They were everywhere then. And they are everywhere now.

Sometimes it makes me sick.

So while maybe my son’s ‘black velvet kippa’ phase was more about religion (for adults) than anything else, I really believe Bebe’s tzitzit-wearing is more about gender. And for her, it’s more about being involved. She’s asked to wear them on shabbat for tefillot.

I don’t know where it will go religiously. It’s actually more shocking that my son still wears his tzitzit than that my daughter is interested in being involved in a daily activity.

But this should be about gender expectations. We should talk about gender expectations. When applicable, there are actions to take to break down some gender expectations.

And, c’mon, little girls in tzitzit is just as freakin cute as little boys in tzitzit.

It’s over. Everything is over and my kids have won. Now go read my electric bill.

The kids wanted me to write them ‘good deeds’ notes to bring to gan. I scribbled one for Koala – he had cut the vegetables for dinner last night by himself. Then I asked Bebe what I can write for her.

“I shared my spoon with Koala!”

I started writing it and then looked up at my 5-year-old.

“How… how would I say share here?” It’s a verb I just can’t get right because it doesn’t translate the way you’d think it does.

They both answered immediately: “L’vatair!”

“L’vatair… right. So if I want to say ‘she shared,’ I’d say ‘hee vetra?'”

Koala looked over at Bebe, a smile slowly spreading across his face. I caught her mouth responding in a similar smile.

“Yeah… ‘hee vetRa’,” he responded, rolling the ‘resh’ correctly. This resh, or Ima’s lack thereof, has been a a cute source of contention lately.

As we’d say in Hebrew, nafal ha’asimon. I looked from one sabra to the other. It wasn’t the first time either had noticed my linguistic lacking (or pathetic pronunciation), but it was the first time they were in on it together.

In that moment, I could see the future. I could see that immigrant life as I’d known it till now is over. That look between my two children said everything; that look was the last stamp in my teudat oleh. My aliyah may now officially be declared successful.

“Hey. Both of you. Stop that smiling! I know what you’re thinking!”

My two Israeli children giggled and I tossed Bebe her note.

Native children ahad, Immigrant mother, efes.

But also probably a lot more than efes.

Koala update: five and a half years

It would be an understatement to say it’s been a hectic half a year. But it hasn’t been too busy not to notice what a big kid you’ve become.

You’ve taken to Nettles as a big brother does; you’ve bonded even more with Bebe even if you do bicker a bit more (a testament to her communication skills, to your opening even more space to let her have valid feelings and actions).

The week you learned checkers, you taught your sister checkers. That might have been the best part of your enthusiasm.

You get down on the ground to see the world the way the baby does.

You can’t stop writing and drawing. Copying any words you see, in English or Hebrew. Drawing the characters in your mind, whether pirates or rocket ships.

You learn from everyone around you. The yoga thing definitely stuck.

You are fascinated by how things work, by making things work. Including your uncle’s PhD robotics work.

You’re – well, we’ll call it resourceful. I can’t throw anything away without you inspecting it first. Maybe there’s something you can do with it. Maybe you’ll save it for a rainy day. Or a paper pool.

You know who is dear to you. There are friends, and then there are friends. You treat them well. After initial caution, you’re sensitive. You share a little better. You laugh a lot. You love them close.

Nettles update: seven months

Oh Nettles, Nettles, Nettles.

You are a special soul, truly: only you – but only you – can be home with me all day while I attempt to get work done, roar at me on constant, and when I try to help, you laugh in my face – and get away with it.

It’s fascinating me to watch your experience as a child born into a loud, existing home. You don’t know life without much taller people walking around (and over) you. You only know a world where anyone, at any time, can walk up to you, throw their arms around your neck, and sing VERY LOUDLY IN YOUR EAR (‘she’s not a toy, Bebe!’).

It really shows on you. You are watching everything. You are getting faster about catching up. We look up and you’re halfway across the room, shoving bits of leftover craft paper in your mouth.

Also, FOOD!!!1!1!!

This is a relief – you’re one of us in the food department. My heart couldn’t take it otherwise.

You are getting into everything. I warned your brother and sister but they will not be stolen from without a fight. Which is mostly coming to tell me “Nettles hit me! Nettles pulled my hair! Nettles broke my toy!”

I wasn’t a youngest, Nettles, but I’ve known one very well. Take it from me: keep at it. Keep at it as long as you can. 

Except maybe the tiny model sukkah we built. Please don’t eat the tiny model sukkah we built.

And as your first summer has ended, I’d like to add that you’ve been to the beach more in your short lifetime than your siblings were in the first three years of theirs.

Maybe that’s part of what keeps you so chill.

Bebe update: three and a half years

And like that, you were three. Bigger, a little bolder, a lot brighter.

This hasn’t been the easiest half a year for you Bebe; gaining a little sibling is wonderful as you know, but also kind of challenging, as you know… right?

Your love and warmth and all-encompassing care for your baby sister has been inspiring. Your hugs and cuddles and kisses have been (mostly) warmly received by this very lucky little baby.

But on perhaps a weird level, I’m also so proud of you – for the outspokenness when you need to be heard. For acting out when you feel out of sorts. For refusing, rebelling, for stamping your feet.

Your curiosity is budding. More likely to jump in, more likely to explore – and this was always true – way more likely to get your hands (and everything else) dirty for the sake of knowledge.

Along those lines – the building. You love to get your hands in there, putting together houses and towers and any other abstract construct.

Let the record show I’m vocal about making sure you get the same Lego attention as your brother.

You’ve always been about movement – whether doing your natural full split or, well, walking into walls. This year you’ve started a ballet class, which, can you guess, that you love it?

You ‘read’. To your baby sister. It’s the best reading ever.

And your baby doll is still following us everywhere.

Friends have always been and ever-growing an important part of your daily life. It’s most of what you talk about when I ask you how gan was.

We drink ‘coffees’ together.

You are the swimmer to Koala’s paper pool. The explorer to his wild plans.

There are things about you becoming a teenager that I find downright frightening. And there are others I think will be fun – like watching you get dressed every day. Some days you put on whatever we put out… and some days, you make magic (which I will get a photo of at some point).

Walk your own way, Bebe.

Nettles update: six months

At the beginning of this month, on the way back from our visit to the States, while your sister slept and her breakfast cooled off on her tray, I watched you watch me as you stuck your hand out, every so slowly, inching, inching towards it.

A few days ago you saw your pacifier had been tossed a foot away from your reach… and I watched you military crawl to get at it. Over and over.

Even when you’re uncomfortable, desperate to let me know you need some care urgently – food, sleep – you smile. You smile with a look of, ‘hey, it’s you, I love you! You’re so great! Oh and please, please, please help me…’

Go out there and get what you want. And if you (do what comes natural to you and) keep the smile going while you do it, you’ll be way better off.

Nettles update: five months

It would happen eventually, Nettles.

Your first wartime.

So we did that and then picked up when it seemed like the end was close (I think one of the faux cease fires was during our flight?).

The America trip.

You’ve been smiling your way through it all – new family members, passing strangers, my childhood friends. My childhood friends’ babies.

And in following the footsteps of your brother and sister – and let’s face it, your mom, and at least a couple of your uncles – you were pumped at the idea of food.

Also, see ya. You’ve been moving clockwise for a while, but your movement has evolved into probably what the first fish with feet tried doing to get out of the water.

That, and a lot of skydiving…

At five months, you’re one of the gang. It’s no secret there’s plenty you’ll get to do before they did. And in most ways, that’s more about me than it is about you. But based on who you’ve been so far, I’m more than confident that you’re going to do a great job keeping up

The time’s moving so fast. You’re moving so fast. Next month I’m starting to work full time, your siblings will be back in gan, and you’ll be on your own in a surrogate family for the days.

Don’t forget to write, Nettles.