Today I’m happy to introduce you to Revital, a mother of five boys who lives in Israel and blogs for Jewish Journal, as well as doing writing and creative work at aJudaica.com. She sent me an email back in January, and we’ve been in touch many times since then. Meeting people is one of my favorite parts of blogging, hands down. Blogging just makes the world so much smaller, in a good way.
Revital is sharing a little Purim experiment she and a friend did with their kids, and what she learned from it. Speaking of Purim, I also have a post up on Kveller about how my habit of calling Purim the “Jewish Halloween” does a disservice to Purim, and why Purim is so much better. Head over to read that when you’re done here.
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So what’s pink and fuchsia and red all over? The Cohen girls in their fluffy princess costume, self-applying lipstick…
I decided that in this post, I’ll introduce you to my childhood friend Chana Cohen, and will tell you about our journey towards Purim fun and self-discovery.
Purim is fast approaching, but in the Cohen home, it’s Pesach every day. As soon as Bracha (5) and Batsheva (3) arrive home from Gan (playgroup), they enter “Egypt-mode” and promptly begin hauling 20-gallon sturdy plastic Costco boxes full of toys and using them to build pyramids on the couch. They look up to the heavens every once and again, raise their arms and cry “Ana Hashem Hoshia Na!” I tell their mother, Chana (a good friend of mine) that they must have excellent Ganenets (teachers) who really really make the Torah come alive!
Chana tells me that her daughters’ Egypt phase began a few weeks ago, when they started learning Chumash Shmot (the book of Exodus) in Gan.
Don’t get me wrong, Bracha and Batsheva are as girly as girls go. They build their pyramids wearing their Shabbos dresses and glittery Shabbos shoes (Bracha’s are size 10 high heels from Wal-Mart). The pile of “yom-chol” (weekday) clothes in the corner of their bedroom is the result of tearing them off and dressing up in their gorgeous dresses every day upon arriving home from Gan.
While I can’t even bribe my five young boys to take off their pajamas on Shabbos mornings and get dressed in their suits before Abba returns from shul, Chana’s daughters have already gotten dressed in their Shabbos finest at least twice (the first dress they usually put on doesn’t flow with their mood fifteen minutes later. Then they need different dresses to better express themselves).
Meet Yitzchak, affectionately called “TokTok” (for Matok Matok), Chana’s 16-month-old toddler. She never ceases to be shocked by his boyish behavior.
“How does he know he’s supposed to be a boy?” she laughingly asks me over and over again, and honestly, I don’t know! He’s always kicking and throwing balls, playing with trucks and climbing. He climbs a lot. The first truck he played with at home was one that Bracha suggested her mother buy him, at the age of 14 months. Before then, Chana was so used to buying dolls and strollers that it didn’t even occur to her to buy a car or a truck! But when she brought it home, little TokTok immediately appropriated it. Chana then felt so guilty that she bought him lots more.
“What are your kids getting dressed up as for Purim this year” I asked Chana the other day.
“They’re Queen Esther and/or kallahs (brides) every year, what kind of question is that?!” she answered incredulously.
“Do you want to try something a bit radical this year, Chanaleh?”
“How about I lend you my boys’ solider costumes and you lend me your girls’ bridal gowns, and we do a little switch? Why do our kids have to be so conformist and fit into all the clichés? Let’s teach them to think outside the box! After all, how did we become ba’alei teshuvah? We dared to think outside the box and challenge our realities. Let’s teach our kids to do the same!”
Chana and I were thrilled! We had devised the perfect plan to help our children think creatively and dare to be different.
That night, at dinner time, Chana ventured to propose the plan to her unassuming daughters.
“Bracha, what do you want to dress up as this Purim?” she probed gently.
“I’m going to be a kallah this year. So will Batsheva,” she answered with her trademark self-confidence.
“What do you think of dressing up as a solider?”
“That’s weird, Ima. Everyone will laugh at me!”
“What if I gave you two bags of bissli?”
“Ima, pour me more Petel, please.” Discussion over. Case closed. Moving on.
I of course had a similar discussion with my unimpressed little guys. Later that evening, Chana and I discussed our failed attempts at trying something new and different.
“Tell me, Revital, how could we have failed? We wanted to pass on such an important lesson to our children! I just don’t understand. B”H, we both have graduate degrees and are successful in our careers; we’re perhaps even doing better than men in similar positions. How come we can’t pass on similar values to our kids? Why are they so conformist?”
“Chana, maybe we can learn something from our children. We come from secular America and may not realize how deeply that has affected us. Our children are growing up in Chareidi milieus here in Israel, and they just don’t feel the need to prove themselves to anybody. Your daughters feel great being girls and feel no need to become powerful career women like their mommy. My guys are content with being guys. Let’s just be thankful that we have such great kids and go to sleep.”
“Sure thing Revital. You’ve given me something to think about. So, we failed, but did we really? We’ve perhaps learned something invaluable with ourselves, even if it’s inside the box!”
“Oh yeah, I need to go out and buy a toy rifle for my son now…see you on Purim!”