Finding myself in the Middle East

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Butterfly Kisses

"But, but but, I want it, want it want it, and also, it's almost Purim, so it's a good time to get a treat. Right?"

I kept my face carefully blank. Then let a smile touch my lips. "You want it want it want it?"

Princess' face looked like the sun coming in from behind gray clouds. "Yes."

And it's a good time for a treat?"

"uh huh."

I touched her chin. Her stubborn, set, adorable chin. "Just because I love you. Here you go."

Her eyes looked suspicious. "In a bag."

"In a bag."

"I want to pick them."

"It's so important to you?"

"Uh huh." She paused. "Please?"

"You can pick them. Then we need to hurry home."

"Okay! Thank you! My morah says that we need to all dress up tomorrow! For the party! And you can come! Imas can come! But not Abbas." A frown creased her round little mouth. "I don't know why."

We are changing our interaction with Princess, and now it's listing to one side of our ultimate Golden Means. And I am holding my breath, but it seems to be working. She has had only one tantrum in the past two days, as aposed to all. day. long. The odd thing is, we were inspired by a vlog.

It's weird to even watch it. It's basically a vlog about the day-to-day life of this family. They happen to be religous Mormons. And I can't stop watching them. It took me a month to figure out why.

They have three kids and one on the way, a huge family out of our world. And it was clear to me that the mother and father love every minute of it.

It took me another month to figure out why.

I think they just love them. The kids, I mean. They just love their kids. And that sounds like, well, duh, but really it pretty deep, I think. They just love them. They discipline, sure, and they are actually kind of strict, but there is never anything harsh behind the interactions. No expectations.

I'm actually having a hard time putting this into words. Let me give an example. When I was 9 months pregnant with Princess and living in 35 square meters in a building where you needed to try really hard NOT to hear exactly what was going on in all your neighbors' lives (I was tempted once to write a letter to one neighbor, explaining why he was right, and she had spent too much money that week carelessly. I also knew when another neighbor found out that she was expecting a boy after three girls. So excited for you! About what? Erm. About. Your new dress?)my husband and I overheard a father admonishing his little girl, "Is this how our tzadekes behaves?!" And I remember thinking, or maybe one of us said to the other, maybe she doesn't want to behave like a tzadekes. Maybe she wants to be a little girl.

That's it, basically. I am not trying to give in to her wants and constant desires. I am trying to project simple love and understanding, with no expectations. Not that I don't believe that she can become whomever she wants to become. Not that I don't believe that she can't rise above her contant need to control every situation. But that right now, while I would love her to, and I will try to lead her onto that path, I don't expect it. I won't project disproval while you wear your emotions on your sleeve. I don't expect you to be a tzadekes, my complicated little girl, I am trying to tell her. I love you for who you are right now, in front of me.

I tucked her in last night, my eyes red with the fatigue that has been hounding me since my pregnancy started, and has gotten worse recently. Outdoorsman, bless him, has been helping nightly with bedtime these past few weeks. "Tell me something that made you not so happy today, and something that made you happy today."

She thought for a moment. "Merav said I was a little baby today in gan."

"Oh. That didn't make you feel good?"

"NO. But she is silly because I'm even bigger than her."

"Yes, you are. And did something happen today that made you happy?"

"Yes." she dimpled. "You bought me an extra treat. Because you love me."

Because I love you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beer and Burkas

I was changing a particularly vile diaper of Coco-pop's creation and dreaming about a toilet that trains toddlers all by itself (because. how cool would that be?) when Coco-pop drew her knees to her chest abruptly.

"Do not do that, sweetie," I said sternly. "Ima needs to finish cleaning you."

"But z'not tznius!" she retorted, around a mouthful of pacifier.



We definitely live in Eretz Yisrael. I know this because all around me the buildings are made out of white stone, I purchase my milk in a bag, and my 2 year-old just informed me that changing her diaper is really not very tznius.

Being that Princess will be five this year, I have been thinking a lot about getting her into Bais Yaakov.

Now, I am a firm believer in judging things for myself. I never take other people's word for it. About anything. I know a lot of people who left this country for red-bricked-er and milk-in-containers-er pastures, claiming to be afraid of the Israli School System. Honestly, I never had a kid in the Israeli school system, and I refuse to judge it until I have experienced it for myself. Nothing is perfect. There are plenty of problems with the schools that I went to in the U.S. I guess it's all a question of the lesser of evils. And to decide which evil is the lesser, I need to experience both.

But then I get scared. Becuause maybe the devil that you know is better than the one that you don't know and all that. I am not sure how to respond to claims that the diaper changing thing, really Mom, is kinda not tznius, donchaknow. And I know it's something that she is repeating without really knowing what she is saying exactly, but that's the point. It's in the air here. And while tznuis is laudable, (even when it freaks me out that Princess refuses to wear socks because "when I run, you see my legs, Ima!") it also comes along with other things. Like this black and white attitude. It's either good or it's bad. Nothing is in between. When I know in my heart that most of the world is gray. I have a neighbor who punished her daughter for undressing her doll because "it's not tznius," and she thinks that the word "naked" is a 4-letter word. (Even though it's 5 letters. You know what I mean.) I don't like that. At all. But is it better in New York, where the kid sitting next to your kid watches TV all day, picking up subtle messages and a 3-second attention span, and sharing these delights with your child?

Remember when we actually wanted to be adults, and be in charge of decisions?

Don't know what I was thinking.

Although I don't really need to worry about getting into Bais Yaakov in the end, dear internet. Because this morning, while strolling between the isles of the very crowded makolet, Coco-pop turns to the woman next to me and informs her, "I like beer. I like to drink the whole thing up."

Because the other day, she asked for some of Outdoorsman's dregs, and I gave the can to her, figuring she'll never ask for it again. She liked it. Very much, in fact. So I do not have to worry about getting into Bais Yaakov, if the look on that woman's face is any indication. Because with honesty like that, it doesn't matter how tznius my daughters are, we aint getting in.


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