Bebe update: four years

New to the Bebe show? Here’s what you missed. 

Four years ago I became a mom for the second time – to a quiet, sleepy, cuddly bebe. Nicknamed by her older brother before she was born, Bebe is also who made me mother to a daughter.

I often feel that while I teach my firstborn a lot – because he asks, because he listens – since she showed up, Bebe has actually been teaching me.

There’s something about you, Bebe, inherently, that makes it so natural and easy for you to give. Here are a few things you’ve brought to me in the last six months.

Next stop: Makeup Princess Kingdom

I had heard it was inevitable. I had heard I must suck it up. I heard it would come, and it would pass.

And still, before I knew it, it had already snuck up on us. First there were the hair accessories. The preference for dresses. It had crept into the house in the form of rubber bracelets, plastic rings, cheap nail polish.

Then, last Purim morning, after months of wanting to dress up as Hello Kitty, after getting your face paint sorted out (all over your face, while calling it makeup,) it came. You asked to be something else. You said the p-word.

So here we are, at Makeup Junction. Princess Parkway. I actually like giving you licence to explore paints, powders and gels (on your face). And if I remove all the girly and non-girly rhetoric of today, I remember that I, too, loved mixing and matching jewelry and hair clips.

I’m ok with it. I’m ok with it. I’m ok with it.

So fill up my old Caboodle (!), since princess or not, you still manage to keep –

Walking your own way

You wouldn’t be one of us if you weren’t a weirdo.

It’s not that you’re a total outlier. You peek around to see what other kids are doing. You hang back if it’s too new, too fast, too in-your-face.

But then I catch you – when you forget to check that anyone else was doing it, when you lose yourself in the moment – I catch you just doing it your own way…

You’re willing to hear me out

I’m not an extremist in any direction, and that’s, bottom line, really all I’d want to pass on for my kids. You’re young, so who knows how it’ll turn out.

But for now, at this point, though often it feels you are already a pre-teen, you are willing to hear me out. If I’m suggesting an outfit, if I’m offering advice on which page to color, if I’m discussing the merits of going into a career where you’re not just a princess but the princess OF [something specific and productive], you listen. Sometimes you stick to your opinion. Sometimes you take me on. And it goes both ways.

I guess I’m learning to try and be accepting. That I have hopes you’ll accept the challenge of making it as far as you want as a female in this world. That you could go as far or in any direction you want, really. That’s what’s important to me. I hope it will be important to you.

And then, you started speaking up

Growing up, over and over, all I ever heard was ‘speak up!’

When I realized I had started saying it to you, it freaked me out a little.

But after a mix of growing a bit older, having Koala as an older brother, have a baby sister, and overcoming some bilingual challenges, you have started speaking up. You’ll tell me a story with incredible detail. You’ll tell us you don’t like something, and why, and please, ima and abba, stop doing it.

And there’s always been a little sass in your back pocket. I love it. And you need it – everyone needs a little sass. So keep it close, use it when appropriate. You’re being heard.

Bebe, here’s to another year of learning and growing, of telling me what is and what isn’t, of teaching me how to be and how to give and how to love. I have a lot more to learn and I know that you have a lot more to give.



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.

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.

Bebe update: Two years


A couple nights ago you couldn’t sleep. You came to bed with me, and we spooned for a bit. After years and years of considering I may just be more of a fork, I realized a truth: You, me, right now, in this moment, are the perfect spoon.

Two years ago, as the sun was setting and Shabbat was beginning, I looked at you on my chest and had no clue how I could possibly love another little human as much as I loved your brother. Thinking to the rhythm of your tiny, newborn breaths, I worried about it. For a few days. For a few weeks. Back then, I had no idea how much I didn’t actually know.

One of the biggest lessons you’ve taught me so far is just how much I don’t know much about anything.

And, on that point, I wonder if you could ever know how amazing you are; I could certainly write pages trying to tell you. I get the feeling that will be the case, forever.

Meanwhile, how about this: I’m looking forward to so much.

To doing what you love with you.


To pretending with you.

To laughing with you.

To loving life with you.

To dreaming with you.

To figuring it all out with you.

Two years later, I know a lot more but I still don’t know so much.

Keep teaching me, Bebe.

Bebe update: Twenty three months

Hi B.

We discovered tea parties this month. You’re a natural… Not sure how you already knew to pour so well. You must get that from your father.

It’s all in good fun, even when you’re smothering your guests with your ferocious love.

Or tenderly picking flowers and crushing them in your tiny hand.

You’ve started asking to try mama things. Like wearing my boots. Putting on my deodorant. Using hand cream (which apparently works great over jeans, shirts, in hair, and eyes). And on the rare occasion I put on a lil makeup, you’re right there saying אניייי!

But you’re also trying brother things… in a really major way. Actually, one thing that stands out this month is how much you copy everything he does.

Maybe it’s a girl thing. But you’ve got your lil bffs picked out. I hope you have it as good as I did.

Can’t believe you’re just about two, Bebe.

Bebe update: Eight months.

I consider this your ‘coming out’ month. Your debutante ball.

In the last few weeks, you have sprouted your first two teeth (the bases of them anyway). Just as we were starting to wonder if you’d be a gummy girl forever.

You started standing up, holding onto the table, couch, walker, your brother for support. You’re not interested in laying down at all, and even crawling is getting boring…

…or so I’m assuming since you freakin’ took steps while holding onto your walker last week. Seriously? That’s how you’re gonna play it? Apparently your mama walked at 10  months, so I guess this is like 1% of the ‘I hope you have a daughter just like you’ blessing/curse I was given… shudder.

And you found your voice, little Ariel. It happened after watching a Cookie Monster special. Are you hinting you’re ready for new snacks? Why have you been keeping it to yourself this whole time? Now you’ve got lots to say, like ‘yayayaya’ and ‘mamama’ and a ton of grunting, for some reason.

You came quietly, and you, for the most part, behave calmly. It’s been a quiet and calm sort of love, sneaking up on us, and now Bebe, I’m madly in love with you.

Time flies when you’re pulling yourself across tiles.

One day, you’re nursing your brand-newborn in your bed at home.

The next, (or 5.5 months later) you turn around for under a minute only to turn back and realize your baby is not where you left her, but rather pulling herself at a steady pace across the floor, reaching into the bottom shelf, pulling out a basket of toy cars, and sucking on one.

In the blink of a childhood.