Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hugging or Not?

I've blogged about this before, that a child has a right to decide if they want to physically interact with another person, be they child, adult or grandparent, but reading this article about a what a hug did inside of a church brought a whole additional piece to the puzzle.

In the story a child complained about an adult volunteer hugging her.  She told her mother, who spoke with the pastor and then the pastor spoke to the volunteer.  The next time the child encountered the volunteer, however, the adult forced another hug and a 'pinky-swear' not to tell mommy.  Luckily this child told her mother.  The church moved forward with an official notice to the Department of Social Services and all heck broke loose.

I am a firm believer that my child does not have to physically interact with another person she does not want to.  I am also a firm believer in being polite.  Not touching someone does not mean we don't say hello, make eye contact or otherwise engage in meaningful interchange.  But there is a line we cross when we engage with another person physically.

There are lots of arguments for and against the hugging controversy.  Yup, that's right, I called it a controversy.  Like we don't have enough on our plates that we are judging other people for whether their child shows the 'right' kind of affection the 'right way'?

From a Jewish perspective it's all a matter of Leviticus 18:6 through 18:19.  This torah portion is the direct start of the idea of Negiah or not touching between men and women.  Specifically Leviticus says:

"No man shall come near to any of his close relatives, to uncover [their] nakedness. I am the Lord."

It's interesting to note that it says 'come near' not just nakedness.  This shows us that there is, in fact, a proper level of removal between family members of a certain age. We do not follow Negiah, but it's interesting that the idea of not coming in close contact is very readily written and codified in Jewish law for us to fall back on.  This separation is even true during birth and labor, and interestingly enough when one of the partners in a marriage is observing Shiva.  One of these days I'm going to enlighten the world as to the gift of shiva to a grieving person...

Back to the topic at hand.  If you read those articles, you might have noticed some people complaining about how this is ruining their apologies too.  We already know how I feel about forced apologies.  The idea that you are ending your forced apology with a forced 'hug it out' scenario is just so incredible to me that I don't even know where to start. 

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not raising your children.  If you have a policy inside your home that your children hug it out when they apologize, good for you.  That's just not for me or my children.  So don't try to force your ideals onto my children either at the park of the classroom or the synagogue.

Of course the thing that I think is most startling about the article is that they seemed to entirely skip over the part where the volunteer adult told the child to 'pinky-swear' that they wouldn't tell their parents.  Red flag anyone?  Let's not even get started on secrets...this post is already getting to long.

Here's a cute hug to leave you with...because despite this post, I really do love Hugging!

All photos by Laura Layera, LuluPhoto

Monday, October 12, 2015

Attending a Bris

I often get questions about what to do when you attend a bris at someone's house.  For a lot of parents who may be interfaith or not overly religious the idea of a bris can be a bit scary- a medical procedure inside someone's home.  To cover the highlights a bris is when a Jewish son is circumcised, or when the foreskin of the penis is removed.  It is usually customary to formally name the child at this time, which can be the very first time the child is named, or the giving of a Hebrew name in addition to a secular one.  So here are a few tips to make your first bris the celebration it's meant to be.

1.  Bring along a gift of some kind.  No this isn't a requirement, but just like a birthday party or another event at someoen's home it's customary to bring a small gift to the baby boy.  This could be something as simple as  card with a check for $18 (chai) or a small stuffed animal.  I'm a huge fan of this onesie, which celebrates the naming of the child, rather than focusing on the religious aspect of the circumcision.


2. Be prepared to stay for a while.   The process for a bris can range from 15 minutes to several hours.  A lot depends on the arrival of the Mohel and how the baby is doing.  There's usually some nosh, so grab a plate and plan to stick around for quite a bit. And on that note, be prepared to pitch in to help.  These people just had a baby, and they are hosting something akin to a party.  Help them out by taking care of something like the trash, the dishes, or just hiding their dirty socks under the couch.

3.  Don't expect to hold the baby.  This is not only a religious ritual, but it's also the first 8 days of baby's life.  Do use hand sanitizer whenever it seems you might get a chance, but don't be upset if mamma wants to keep the baby near her.  It can be traumatic for moms to hear their baby boys crying, so don't be concerned if she holds him close, and then when it's over usher's him back to his room for some quite time and/or nursing.

4. CELEBRATE.  It can seem a bit weird to shout Mazel Tov over the cries of a baby, or seeing the tears staining the new moms' eyes, but people who hold brises and invite people to share this moment are doing so because this is a great simcha.  It's a moment when they are declaring their dedication to Judaism, welcoming their son into the community of Jews and celebrating that he's come into this world.  So remember to raise a toast, speak kind and exciting words, and celebrate the joyous occasion.  
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