Thursday, April 1, 2010

The G-d Squad

As I had suspected, my status as an Israeli would cause some conflict in my parents' house, where they (like lots of other Jews) have made a notable swerve to the right. We had discussed the fact that as an Israel, I would not be keeping two days of official chag and would not be attending two complete seders for Pessach. My mother even requested that I come to shul the second day in any case, to show off the baby.

But when I did arrive with the stroller and Raphaela after our walk, I was apparently not dressed appropriately enough and my mother's face noticeably winged when I entered the room. I later got the speech about how I disrespected a holy place and the people there, and how I would have dressed more appropriately if I had visited a church or a mosque than I did for her synagogue.

It distresses me that the word "goy" (meaning gentile) was bandied about almost as a curse word, and I replied that all of her friends there, whose opinions count for so much, know that it was not my holiday and they were quite affectionate and warm toward me and the baby, regardless of my clothing. "I am an Israeli, not a goy." But maybe in this case they are almost the same thing.

With my Ultra-Orthodox sister and her brood arriving today, the atmosphere will become super-charged with religious zealotry, and so I will have to hope that the weather improves enough for me to take Raphaela on lots of walks. The pinnacle of parenthood as well, my mother has advanced the theory that pacifier use (which my sister's kids do prodigiously) increases intelligence; and so I will also have to make a stand defending my parenting choices.


koshergourmetmart said...

Even though you keep 1 day of yom tov, you cannot mehalel yom tov publicly.You for example, cannot drive on yom tov sheini in America or eat chametz of the 8th day of pesach b/c of marat ayin. Your mother's request to show off the baby in shul is quite reasonable-that is what grandparents do (considering you thought she would be embarrased by RR way back when you started that is a leap ahead). Since you were going to shul even if it not yom tov for you, you should dress like it's yom tov since you should blend with eveyone else. I always wear a hat when I go to shul even when it is not for a religious reason (like attending a purim carnival)b/c it is respect for the place. Knowing your mother's feelings I think you should have dressed up-she is not making an unreasonable demand of you

Amy Charles said...

sweetie, just don't engage. You're there to visit, to show off the baby, to introduce her to family. Then you go home. You don't have to win converts or convince them you're right. Just smile, be polite, and let the disagreements exist -- and set boundaries, without getting crazy over it. Don't want to talk about pacifiers? Don't. Say, "No, I really don't want to talk about that," and change the subject. If they insist, then (pleasantly) get up and leave the room. After a while they'll get the message.

If my family were members of a de facto cult, I might add another bit to the repertoire, which would be to say pleasantly (at the 15th mention of some culty thing), "You know, when people keep bringing these things up to me, I have this weird reaction, I just start cursing like I've got Tourettes. It's uncontrollable." And then when they do it again, say, "Farts." They're still going? "Farts farts." Remain pleasant throughout, of course. But they'll stop.

I started doing these things to give myself peace of mind, but found after about ten years that family members not only respected me for drawing boundaries and living my own life, but decided that I was right about some things. And told me so. It didn't make a big difference in our relationship at that point, but i appreciated that they were willing to stick their necks out like that.

Anyway. You're in Rome, do as a Roman. In two weeks you'll be thousands of miles away.

Sarah said...

I had a somewhat similar conundrum about what to wear the second day. My parents were having company over and I didn't want to look like a "shlump" when for all of them it was Yom Tov, but I also wanted to be comfortable. So I compromised on a sort of "business casual" look (loose skirt that wasn't denim, informal cotton top with long sleeves, pearl earrings to dress it up a little) and I think that was OK.

I agree with Koshergourmetmart that your mom has obviously come a long way, going from "what will people think about your baby" to "let's show off the baby!" and that if you were dressed totally like it's a regular day (jeans, for example) it would have been more respectful to dress up a tad before going into a shule. On the other hand, you are who you are and you do what you do, and if your mom is giving you grief about it, just smile and say "I'm sorry I disappointed you. Do you need any help in the kitchen?" and try to move on. Ultimately, it's not up to you to change her, only to complain about her to your therapist! :-)