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Identity

I look at today’s teens and I wonder – how do you not know who you are?

I have a few students who know who they are. And the rest – from grade 7 to grade 12, up through National Service or army, and often even when they begin college – do not know what they want to do with their lives.

Then they start dating. And they do not know what kind of spouse they are looking for. Sure, they spit back all the regular answers: religious, middle-of-the-road, knows what he wants to do, did army (possibly combat). But they do not know what they are looking for.

And they can’t. Because they don’t know why they are.

If I were a coach, if I had enough money that I did not need to work, I would volunteer to act as life coach for high school students.

Because these are the years. This is when you become who you are. When you choose what, ad who, you will become.

Sometimes it takes a bit longer. But by age 20, you should know who you are.

At least, I think.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. And neither are they.

Yitzchak’s developmental psychology book speaks exactly about these situations.

There are two major problems that many teens face when trying to achieve identity:

  1. Identity moratorium. These teens are “high school students,” “college students,” possibly even “computer science students,” and maybe they are “army guys/ gals.” But the issue is that their definition of self changes as their external role changes. They define themselves based on what they are occupied with, not as who they are. Because, in essence, they do not know who they are.
  2. Identity diffusion. This is a state when the young adult does not know who they are, and does not really care to find out. These adults ignore conflict and refuse to discuss issues. They are, essentially, in denial. If you try to bring up an important subject, they will say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter anyways, because . . . ” or possibly, “Whatever . . .” They have a hard time committing and avoid deep introspection and questioning.

The problem is that often, neither of these states resolve themselves.

There is a third state that psychology deems problematic, and that is the state of identity foreclosure. In this, the teen unequivocally adopts societal and parental expectations, and becomes whatever is expected of them. This teen avoids questioning, but in all honesty – as long as he continues being happy with his chosen, “forced,” identity as an adult – I don’t really see the issue. Not everyone is a questioner and non-conformer. That’s okay.

But the identity and moratorium are actually harmful to those afflicted with them. Because neither knows who they are.

The moratorium is painful. It’s painful to be questioning but not be able to commit. It’s painful to know that you are something, that there is something that fits, and not know how or where to find it.

The diffusion is not as painful. At least, not on a conscious level. But a person suffering from identity diffusion will very often find themselves years later, looking back and wondering how they messed up their lives. Suddenly, they begin to care, only to discover too late that they have gone down the wrong path.

The book had a nice chart:

commitment + questioning = identity achieved

no commitment + no questioning = identity diffusion

no commitment + questioning = identity moratorium

commitment + no questioning = identity foreclosure

It was in chart form, of course.

Me, I have often been told that I am immature. I decided at age 6 that I wanted to be a teacher, and I did it. I decided at age 12 that I wanted to move to Israel, and I did it. I decided a lot of things as a kid – and when I found that list, just before I made aliya – everything on it fell into three categories:

  1. accomplished
  2. in the process of accomplishing
  3. no longer important to me

Yitzchak did not know what he wanted to do with his life until he started college. He debated between two or three things, and then chose. But Yitzchak’s identity is not caught up with what he does for a living. He could work in anything and be content, as long as it was decent work, good conditions, and paid the bills. He has his dream job, of course. But if he is not working in that dream job, it doesn’t matter to him what he *does* work in.

We can probably sum this up by saying that job/ occupation is not the entirety of someone’s identity.

But when a person does not know who they are at the age of 22, 25, or 28, and cannot choose a spouse – there is a problem.

What makes you special? What do you have to give to the world?

What do you want your life to look like?

Answer these questions, for yourself . . . because when I ask them of people trying hard to find a spouse, and not succeeding, most of them cannot answer me. And they get mad at me for digging too deeply, for asking what they see as irrelevant questions.

It’s not irrelevant. It’s about your identity.

As Gila Manolson points out in her book, “Head to Heart,” you will only find a spouse who is as healthy and whole as you are now. Like marries like.

And one day, when I have the time and money, I will do that coaching course, to make my talent official.

And then when I have more time, and less need for a “real” job, I will be a volunteer coach, working in high schools.

The Ultimate Judge of Character

I’ve decided, or maybe realized, that there is one major test of character. It’s probably one of the best tests, and one of the only that gives an accurate, true, result.

Divorce.

You can judge a person’s character by four things:

  1. How unreasonable their demands are;
  2. how much they badmouth their ex-spouse (in court and in the community);
  3. how nastily they fight in court.

And by looking at those three things, you can get a pretty accurate idea of who’s the victim, who’s the perp, and what kind of people both spouses are.

Then there’s a fourth factor, one that isn’t applicable to most divorcees:

4. if they choose not to fight at all, and in that case – who gets everything.

That, I already don’t know what to say. Because if one spouse chooses not to fight, there’s no fight. And then the question is, who got everything, *who* chose not to fight, and what their motivations were. Choosing not to fight is either strength of character, or just being chicken. If there are kids involved, it’s either protecting them from an ugly fight, or abandoning them.

Honestly, I don’t know. Luckily, most divorcees don’t just give everything to the other side, no questions asked.

The problem with this test of character?

Not all people are divorced.

Well, that’s not really a problem. It’s a blessing. But the divorce test obviously doesn’t work on those who have never divorced.

I realize that there are some holes in my theory. And still, overall, I think it’s a good rule of thumb.

What’s More Appalling?

I kvetch to Mom. A lot. And I mean, a LOT. Yitzchak and I haven’t had the easiest year or so, to say the least. And honestly, it’s taken its toll. On us, emotionally, on our relationship, on how we parent.

We’re not perfect, by far. And yeah, we have a lot of work. We’re working on it. It’s tough, but we’ll get there.

So one day a few weeks ago, I was kvetching to Mom, this time about Yitzchak. I mean, he listens to his mommy and respects her – maybe she can help him see that I’m not as crazy as he thinks I am? (That was a mistake, BTW. Because he isn’t thrilled with all of her parenting skills – so if I agree with her, then he sees that as an issue. Well. I didn’t know that. And I had to explain that on *this specific issue* I agree with her – not on the rest of it, necessarily. Sigh.)

Mom mentioned a few things, some true and some not. She told me what her opinion is on some of the stuff, okay, I get it. She had some good points, and there are some things that I won’t argue about, because we’ve mutually decided not to argue those points.

A few days later, Yitzchak says that Mom spoke to him, and during the conversation, she asked if we were thinking of breaking up.

WHAT?!?!?

Where’d she get THAT?!?!

Okay. We are having slight communication issues. We do not see eye-to-eye on everything. And we are going through a rough patch.

But we are *trying* to fix that. We even made up a rule chart, that has less to do with house rules as it does with making sure that we’re on the same page re daily routines . . . so we don’t get surprised, sidetracked, told, or bribed differently [by a certain Someone].

The goal, and the reason I spoke to Mom in the first place, is to fix our communication issues.

Separating was not even on the table. Still isn’t.

Because that won’t solve the issues, it’ll just make it worse.

Because breaking a marriage, especially once you’ve had kids, isn’t the solution to anything, except in extreme cases of one side abusing the other.

Because, well, it’s just not an option.

Because even if we don’t agree on everything, that doesn’t make either of us less of a good person.

Wait. She’s worried that we’ll break up? Or she kind of wants us to? Is that why she suggested that we each go for counseling, separately, and explained something about how it’s better than going together? Maybe I picked the wrong person?

No. It can’t be that she wants us to break up. She knows that Yitzchak is happier married to me than he was a long time prior. And besides, if we got divorced, that would put an end to her hopes for more grandkids, until someone else got married – and no one else is even engaged yet. It CAN’T be that she wants us divorced. Mom wants more grandkids too much (even if she’ll never admit to it), and we’re her only source of them (as we are to my parents).

Well, I sent Mom a text, reassuring her that divorce wasn’t on the table, and that I’m not sure how she thought it was.

Two days later she called me up. She wanted to make sure that I didn’t think Mom wanted us to break up – she was just worried. Of course, like a good daughter-in-law, I assured her that I’d never thought she wanted us to break up – I just didn’t know why she was worried about it. (Yes, I sort-of lied. No, she doesn’t read this blog.) And then we talked for a while, about related and unrelated things.

I still don’t agree with Mom 1000% about everything. She knows that. And she knows that we can still respect each other, despite our differences of opinion.

I’m still kind of appalled that she thought we were even thinking of separating, especially under the circumstances.

But on the other hand, why is what Mom thought more appalling than those who think my life is perfect and that I don’t understand hardships of any sort?

 

Does Divorce Run in Families?

The short answer is no. Divorce is not hereditary, because it’s not about DNA. It’s about life choices and maturity.

The long answer is: Possibly. Meaning, not the divorce itself. But yes, marrying a child of divorced parents raises your risk of getting divorced. Your risk is even higher if both your parents and your spouse’s parents are divorced.

I know a family with 3 generations, possibly soon 4 generations, of divorced women.

The great-grandmother divorced, when her children were grown. They “just didn’t get along, and hadn’t for years,” but waited until their children were grown to actually separate.

The grandmother and her brother also divorced. Only her sister is still happily married.

The mother divorced, too. Her sister and brother, though, are thankfully still happily married.

And now the second daughter is on the verge of divorce. (The first daughter, thank G-d, is happily married; the rest of the siblings are not yet old enough to marry.)

Honestly, it was black-on-white even before they married. And it was even more obvious when they became pregnant so soon. Neither was ready to become a parent and their marriage was not yet strong enough to support pregnancy, birth, or parenting.

But they knew “better” and made their own decision, ignoring their rabbi’s, friends’ and family’s advice to wait. And still, with proper counseling and a lot of work on both sides, the marriage could have worked. (Note: I am not pro-birth control in any respect. However, having a solid relationship is a *must* before you add a kid into the equation.)

The problem is, many children of divorce don’t know what it means to work on a marriage. For that matter, they don’t really know what “marriage” is – unless they take the time to educate themselves. And many of these children believe themselves to already be educated.

I’ve recently realized that I owe a huge debt to my aunt and uncle, because, in many ways, it is they who taught me what a normal marriage, and a normal life, looked like. For about two years, I was with them for Shabbat; one of those years, I spent from Thursday night to Sunday morning with them . . .  almost every week. Then I met my best friend, had a dorm that was an apartment instead of a huge building, and started doing Shabbat just with her.

Around that time, I also met my “adoptive” parents, and they were the ones who walked us through the preparations for the wedding, held our hands through the family feuds, assured us that we really were right for each other . . . and to this day, “Mommy” still gives us both over the heads when we’re being stupid. She is the one whose advice both of us trust, almost with our eyes closed. They are the ones who keep us in perspective, and when we need help, they step in and help.

They’ve helped us smooth over arguments, they’ve watched Shlomo when I had a medical emergency and needed to go to the hospital; they took Shlomo and I to the doctor to get a referral to the ER when we thought Shlomo had swallowed Jack’s medication. “Mommy” went with me to mikva before the wedding, and she was there when Shlomo was born. She would’ve been watching Shlomo when Tova was born, except that they live in Jerusalem, and we don’t, anymore.

Having a set of happily married “parents” means that you have someone to turn to, someone who will give you sound advice because not only do they want the best for you, but they *know* how to make a marriage work.

That’s what people who “inherit” divorce *don’t* have: A set of parents (or “parents”) who they can turn to, who know how to make a marriage work.

The mother of a daughter who has just had a baby and is going through a really bumpy period with her husband, needs to help them smooth it over. But if the mother is divorced, she will subconsciously or consciously encourage the daughter to divorce.

Part of being happily married means letting molehills stay molehills, and not making mountains out of them.

A mother who made mountains out of molehills, and that is one of the factors in the divorce and what came after – will make mountains out of molehills for her daughter, too.

A daughter of a mother who made mountains out of molehills, will do the same in her own marriage. Because that is all she knows . . . to make mountains out of molehills, to scream, to blame.

For instance, my “adoptive” parents: He does not hold babies. At all. Why? Because he is scared. He did not hold Shlomo, and does not hold Tova, and does not hold his biological grandchildren, either . . . and he did not hold his children, either, when they were babies. From when they are about two years old, he is willing to play with them. The *one* time he picked up baby Shlomo was when he was afraid that Shlomo would crawl out of the house. He put Shlomo down as soon as he could, and called me over to pick Shlomo up.

He does not change diapers or do laundry, either. Sometimes, he clears the table. He *does* take out the garbage. So? I’ll tell you a secret: She doesn’t want him in the kitchen. And she doesn’t want him cleaning, either – because he won’t do it as perfectly as she does. They still have a happy marriage. And as much as she’ll complain that he doesn’t help, she also admits (only when I confront her about it) that deep down, she doesn’t want him to help.

I have a cousin whose husband is the same way: He is willing to take four bigger kids across the street, as long as he doesn’t have to hold the baby. He will do *anything* to avoid having to take care of a baby. When they get older, he holds them, plays with them, feeds them, showers them, and dresses them. A baby? Nope. So?

But if a daughter of divorced parents comes to her mother (whose husband *did* help with the babies) and says, “My husband won’t watch the baby and won’t help take care of him,” then the mother will say, “He must be a really neglectful person! Yes, you *should* divorce him! He doesn’t even care about his baby, much less about you!”

What she should say, instead, is something along the lines of, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. But do you remember that he wanted to take night duty? And that he does the heavy scrubbing, the shopping early in the week, and laundry two weeks out of every four? Maybe he’s nervous? Have you tried asking him why he won’t help with the baby? Not accusing him – asking him in a non-threatening fashion. Try saying something like this, ‘I noticed that you don’t seem to want to help with the baby. Do you want to tell me why? Is it because you’re nervous?'”

Or, let’s say the daughter comes to her mother and says, “Mom, he kicked me!” A divorced mom will say, “I can’t believe I gave my blessing to this match! How did I not see his abusive behaviors before the wedding? OMG OMG OMG.”

A sane mother will say the same as she did when her daughter was 4 years old: “Why do you think he did that? That doesn’t sound like what he normally does. What happened prior to the kick?”

Let’s get this straight: Kicking a spouse isn’t okay. But if a husband kicked his wife, after his wife hit him, then the issue is not necessarily one-sided abuse, but two-sided immaturity . . . and the solution will be different, too.

Did the wife scream, threaten, name-call, blame, and in general raise a big ruckus because the husband accidentally dropped the last egg on the floor, and all the stores are closed? Well, I gotta say: I can’t blame the frustrated, trapped husband for kicking.

No. It’s not okay. But it’s also not abuse. It’s simple, two-sided immaturity. Period.

[Oh, and about abuse? It’s not okay. And when there *truly* is abuse, the solution is out, immediately. Full support for the victim, no questions asked. But just like many girlfriends call rape, so too, many wives call abuse. That doesn’t mean that every wife who claims abuse is actually a victim. And sometimes, she may be the perp. So what I’m saying is this: Before believing anything 1000%, do your research and check the facts.]

But many divorced moms won’t see that and won’t say that. Instead, she’ll support her daughter’s angry feelings, justify them, and help her see that this husband really isn’t treating her properly . . . her daughter deserves better!

Except that it doesn’t work that way. There are no long lines of men waiting to marry divorcees, especially not if they have kids, especially not if they were only married a short time, and especially not if they are products of a broken home themselves.

And nobody in their right mind should be taking *marriage* advice from a divorcee.

So no, divorce doesn’t run in families.

But the personality traits that make marriage extremely difficult, the lack of understanding of what a normal marriage and healthy home are, and the lack of support to keep the marriage intact, *do* play a large part in ensuring that divorced parents mean divorced children.

If your parents are divorced, do yourself a favor, and board with a happily married couple. Even if you pay to board there, it’s worth the money. Because I can promise you that it costs less to board than it does to divorce.

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Note: I am aware that not all divorcees are the same; not all divorces are the same; not all children of divorce saw the same things. In this post I am referring to a *specific* case, and I believe that the general community of divorcees and their children have what to learn and ponder from the specifics of this case.

Yitzchak adds that,according to his developmental psych professor, children of divorce usually fall into one of two categories: 1. Those who are *more* likely than their peers to divorce. 2. Those who are *less* likely than their peers to divorce. The difference, according to his professor, is that the second group says, “Heck this sucks! I’m going to do everything possible to make sure I *don’t* divorce!” and then they go roll up their sleeves, put in a lot of elbow grease, and make their marriages work. The professor said that he’s pretty sure that the second group believes that nothing is worse than divorce, that divorce doesn’t solve anything, and that life was much better – and could have become *even better* – prior to their parents’ divorce. The first group, on the other hand, simply thinks, “I’m smart; I know what my parents did wrong, I’ve fixed myself, I’m great and totally mature, and *it won’t happen to me*.” Uh-huh.

1000 Pieces

Last year, Shlomo’s ganenet expressed concern that he was not yet doing 24 piece puzzles independently.  I didn’t think it was a result of anything except a lack of interest (Why should I bother working hard?  It’s not that interesting . . .), but I agreed with her that it was probably worth checking out.

A few months after that, Shlomo, who up until then hadn’t been interested in puzzles for more than five minutes at a time, suddenly discovered a whole new challenge.  He took out the puzzles that we had, and started working on them, alone and with us.  I even tricked him into putting together 12 of the matching-set things, that are two pieces each.  I had to help him and encourage him a bit, but most of them he did on his own.

From there it continued, on and off, until at some point a few months ago, I realized we needed harder puzzles.  We had a 24 piece and a forty-eight piece.  I looked into getting a few 100-piece puzzles, and when Mom asked if there was anything I thought Shlomo would enjoy or want, I told her to get a couple 100-piece puzzles.  She was surprised, to say the least, and said that in her opinion, 100 pieces was too much, and we should stick with 48.  I said yes, 48 is a bit of a challenge, and 100 will definitely be tough at first, but in a couple of months 48 would be easy and the 100 would be doable, independently.  She shrugged, and bought 100 pieces.

And . . .  Shlomo does them, sometimes with help, and sometimes almost by himself.  They are a challenge, but they are a challenge on his level.  And Yitzchak and I rediscovered our own love for puzzles.  The first few nights, after Shlomo went to bed, we took out his puzzles and did them together, challenging ourselves and each other to go as fast as possible and to see who could do the most pieces.

Which is when we got the idea to buy ourselves a nice, grown-up puzzle of 1000 pieces.  I went online and found Puzzleland, and we went through the grueling process of deciding which puzzles we actually liked, and then each of us ranked them from 1 to 10, and Yitzchak assigned points to each number, which were then added up so that each puzzle had a number of points that reflected its standing on both of our lists.

We ended up with my number 1 being his number four, my number 2 being his number five, and vice versa, with our number threes the same (I think).  In the end, we decided on a ship at sea (his #1, my #4), but also decided to go to the store (despite the risk of it not being in stock), instead of ordering online.

Well, it turned out that the store near us didn’t have the ship puzzle in stock.  But, they did have the hot air balloons (my #1, his #4), and so we ended up getting that one instead.

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And while I was checking out, they told me that they were having a sale, and I could get a second product at half price.  At first, I wasn’t going to go for it, because we hadn’t budgeted it in.  But when they suggested a roll-up puzzle mat, I decided to go for it.  Hey, it is an investment, right?

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Actually, what really prompted this purchase, besides for our love of puzzles (which maybe would have been content to wait until we had a little more money) was the fact that we can never find a babysitter, and don’t live near family . . . which means we almost never get time just to ourselves, that isn’t dominated by household tasks.  And honestly, a cup of tea with a piecec of cake doesn’t give us a long enough distraction from chores, so that we can just sit and talk.

So the puzzle was a way to give us “date” time, and honestly, since it is reusable and doesn’t cost us the time and energy needed to find a babysitter; the stress of getting out at the end of the day, when everything is hectic and all we want to do is sit at home; and wondering how our kids are doing (and if the babysitter could actually get them to the bomb shelter within 90 seconds, if there were a rocket attack);  it’s a pretty good deal.

We did a lot on Thursday night (more than we had planned to do, and therefore went to bed later than we had planned to do), and then took it out for a few minutes on Friday afternoon.  That was a mistake, because Shlomo wanted to help, and got frustrated and slightly careless.  So the new rule is: We take out our puzzle only when Shlomo (and Tova) are sleeping.  Except that today, we broke the rule: We wanted Shlomo to nap, and Shlomo wanted to help with the puzzle.  So we made a deal; he helped with the puzzle (he chose to do some of the grass), and then he went to sleep . . . and we finished the puzzle.

Was it a waste of money?  We don’t think so, but only time will tell.  I do think that we made a mistake by allowing all the toys in this house to be Shlomo’s (or, children’s) until now.  Now Shlomo has to digest the idea of Ima and Abba having toys that aren’t for children.  We probably should’ve done this sooner, if only for the educational value.  But I guess we’ll see.

Now the question is, do we buy a second puzzle (and alternate), or do we just do this one over again?

A Box of Jewelry

I wrote this post on August 11, 2013 (or maybe August 18, 2013?).

We are moving, and because we are moving, we are also packing.  On the top shelf of my closet I have a lot of bags.  One of them contains jewelry.  I hardly ever wear jewelry, but people buy it for me anyways.  It’s one of those things – you don’t know what to buy a girl, buy her jewelry.  Doesn’t work with me.  And somehow, it doesn’t matter who the person is, or the fact that, if they would think, they would realize that it’s been years since they saw me wearing any jewelry (wedding ring and nursing bracelet excepted).

At any rate, Yitzchak was packing my shelves.  He brought me the bags, and when I got to the one with the jewelry, I said, “I wonder how much money I could get if I sold all this stuff.”  Yitzchak said, “I was wondering the same thing, but don’t sell it, it sounds really bad.”

No, I wouldn’t sell it, because a lot – or most – of what I have are gifts.  Just like I can’t give any of it to my sisters, because most of my jewelry were presents from family members, I can’t sell my jewelry, either.  Don’t get me wrong – I do have a few pieces with a lot of sentimental value, that I would never want to sell.  But most of what’s in the box, I don’t wear.  Or, I wore it in grade twelve and haven’t touched it since.  Or something like that.

I wonder if my jewelry is worth enough to cover a mortgage.  You think so?

Is Felix Kiprono Nuts?

When I first saw that Obama had been offered 50 cows, 70 sheep, and 30 goats for his daughter Malia’s hand in marriage, I was pretty shocked.  After all, that’s a really high bride price.  On the other hand, just the thought of Obama dealing with flocks of animals is pretty funny.

A Kenyan lawyer?  Well, two points to him for not dating anyone else in the meantime.  Ten points for not being already married.  Five points that he’s willing to teach her and wants to live a simple life (i.e., not after money).  But minus fifteen for the fact that he’s probably over thirty.  Ughh.

Until I saw his picture, that is.  He can’t be more than twenty, and she’s sixteen.  So he was a smart, black, fourteen year old interested in a ten year old, of his own race, whom he thought was pretty, smart, and from what he’d seen of her personality, he liked her.  And, he’s learning in Oxford University.  Listen, a young Kenyan learning to be a lawyer in Oxford is not bad.  Nix the minus fifteen and add seven more points.  And a fourteen year old (maybe he was twelve?) interested in a ten year old isn’t too weird, either.  Kiprono also has support from his family, which is a big thing.

Is it really so bad?  At first it sounded kind of gross.  But if they’re about the same age, it really isn’t that bad.  At all.

I don’t know what Malia will think of it, and I’m pretty sure that even if Obama lets them meet (and give me a break, that’s not even in his control), he won’t take the bride price.  What I do know is that Malia was raised in a Western culture and she will be the one to decide who she marries.

So, Felix Kiprono, I wish you the best of luck in your dates with Malia, and hope that if you are meant to be married, it will happen when you want it to.  See if you can get in touch with her, and what you think of each other in person.

One tip: Wait until she’s at least seventeen before starting to date, and until she’s eighteen before proposing.  Also, remember that she might already have a boyfriend.

Oh, and to all those who call pedophile, because he was interested in her at ten and still is interested her when she’s sixteen, I have news for you.  Ten may be a touch young (depends on how old the proposed partner is), but sixteen is legally a minor, physically an adult.  Yeah, you read that right.  Pregnancies in 15-19 year olds go the same way they do in 20-22 year olds.  It’s the under-15 crowd who isn’t physically adult yet, and if we weren’t living in a skewed Western society that promotes marriage at age 25 or 30, and children at age 29 or 33, then we wouldn’t think it’s weird for a sixteen year old to be getting married.

I agree, and I admit to being part of skewed Western society.  But honestly?  Either you have lots of girl/boyfriends for ten or twenty years, from when you’re a teen until you finally get married – and that’s not good;

or you never end up getting married because somehow you just missed the boat;

or you get married “young” at 22, and everyone raises their eyebrows;

or you become a teenage parent, who should be responsible, but doesn’t know what the word “maturity” means.

But really, people, sixteen is young, but it’s not that young.

The other thing that really bugs me is the tone of the comments on news websites.  Why is everyone laughing at Kiprono?  Sure, I chuckled, too, at the thought of Obama with all those animals.  But if you do the math, just the cows are probably worth around $100,000.  That’s a LOT of money – and unlike money, which is gone after it’s spent, animals reproduce, thereby allowing you to keep your wealth and do things with it.  What Obama has been offered is a very, very, very high, respectable price for a bride.  There is no point in marrying for money if you are paying so much just to get the girl – you may as well keep your money and let her father keep his.

I understand that there is something of a cultural clash here, and that most of the Westernized readers do not see the significance of Kiprono’s offer, but it is, and remains, a very respectable offer and a very impressive offer.  And I don’t think it’s appropriate to make fun of it.

And about the bride price?  Maybe in your world that’s a little outdated, but in Kiprono’s world, it’s not.  And not necessarily is that a bad thing, either.  It’s just a different way of looking at things.

Think of it this way: Most men reading this blog, for the privilege of getting engaged, paid a lot of money for a diamond engagement ring.  If you couldn’t afford an engagement ring, well, then, you evidently weren’t settled enough/ mature enough/ whatever enough to get married, right?  So engagement rings are like modern bride prices, except that: 1. They are “paid” to the girl herself, not her father, 2. not every girl wants one, 3. you can fake gold or fake a diamond, and it’s very hard to fake cattle.  Yitzchak also points out that in the process of courting, the man usually gives the woman gifts here and there; these, too, are part of today’s modern “bride price”.  So in Kenya they give it all at once, and to the father, to ask for the father’s permission/approval.  And in the Western world, they give it bit by bit, to the girl, and [/in the] hope that the girl’s father approves and gives permission.  But it’s really not that different.*

I would also like to say that I Googled “Felix Kiprono” and saw his Facebook page.  He really is as young as he seems to be . . .  and his Facebook page really is a teenage boy’s Facebook page.  Ughhh.  Kiddo, grow up a bit and get some class.  I couldn’t stomach the stuff on your page.  But hey, maybe Malia will think it’s cool.  You never know with teenagers . . .

One more point: True, they’ve never met.  But how many people “fall in love” with a “friend” on Facebook?  How many couples met through an online dating website or forum?  Assuming that they will meet before deciding to actually marry, being interested in someone you’ve never met is no longer that rare.

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* I was one of those girls who did not want an engagement ring, at all, of any form.  I do not regret that decision.  But my mother was mad and felt embarrassed for me(??) and Yitzchak’s mother was convinced that I didn’t really mean it and just didn’t want Yitzchak to waste money, and pressured Yitzchak to go out and buy me one anyways . . .  because that’s what people do when they get engaged, they buy a ring.  And you’re not considered properly engaged unless you have one.  As is illustrated by my extended family, who didn’t think that Yitzchak could be a mature person, ready to get married, if he hadn’t spent the money on an engagement ring.  And my not wanting one was just “an excuse”.  True, I can do what I want, with or without family approval.  But I think it’s pretty clear that today’s version of a bride price is an engagement ring.  What would Obama say – for that matter, what would you say – if your daughter came home, engaged, without a ring to show for it?  Would you approve?  Would you pressure them to call the match off?  Many people would – which is why there isn’t that much culture clash, after all.

When I asked some people why an engagement ring is so important, one of the answers I got is, “So you’ll have something to sell when you need money.”  In other words, an engagement ring is a piece of property meant to help you out in times of need.  Which means that cattle is better, because once you’ve sold a ring, it’s gone forever.  But you can keep your cattle, breed them, sell milk, meat, cheese, and plow fields with them . . . and you probably won’t have to sell all of your cattle, if you’re smart, nor is it a one-time guarantee.  

Umbrella

Post from July 1, 2013:

Is it pronounced um’-brella, or um-brella’?umbrella, rain, red and yellow umbrella, picture of umbrella

Help us resolve this disagreement!

(Yitzchak says that it depends on the word’s use in a sentence: “I have a green um-brella’.”  vs. “I borrowed an um’-brella from the guard.” (Umbrella is the key word in the sentence.)  However, I have not really heard him differentiate between these two in pronunciation, except for right now, when he is trying to prove a point.)

Shlomo loves umbrellas.  I can just imagine his reaction if and when he sees this post . . .

About Marriage and Ethics

One of my friends, A., recently bought a new bookshelf and did some sorting.  Since she’s a Ukranian immigrant to Israel, A. knows English, but doesn’t know it well.  (But, she already knows two languages well, so she’s quite forgiven.)  At any rate, A. and her husband have been collecting random books for years, and they have a few in English.  As part of her cleaning/sorting project, she decided to add to my already overstuffed bookshelves (we need to buy another one) and give me all her English books.  After all, they’re just taking up space in her house; once upon a time, she had time to sit, read, and translate the books, but right now, they’re just sitting useless.  And it’s pretty obvious that if she ever wants to read on, all she has to do is call up.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Esther Jungreis, books, marriage, relationships, commitment, Judaism, the commited life, lifetime commitment, living together, eloping, judaism, marriage, parenting, children, grandparents, jewish life, jewish values, jewish women, women in judaism, hineni, outreachSo, we got a few new books.  And, because I’m a bookworm (so is Yitzchak, by the way) I spend time reading them.  They’re actually good additions to our library, for the simple fact that we don’t have a lot of “easy” reading around here.

Today, I decided not to get on the computer until around Shlomo’s bedtime.  (He is in bed, by the way.)  The book that I have been perusing for the past few days is “The Committed Life“, by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.  It’s a book I’ve skimmed before, but she’s an excellent storyteller and someone that I really admire.  So, without being paid for this, I am quoting two paragraphs that I think are right on target for today’s society:

. . . Pearl’s husband was a good man, devoted to his wife and children.  Because he couldn’t earn a living, he was held in contempt.  Were he a ruthless, nasty, but successful businessman, no one in the family would have suggested to Pearl that she seek a divorce.  There is something profoundly wrong with a value system that measures a man not by what he is, but by what he has. (pg. 65)

And then she says, later:

 . . . “Rebbetzin, I agree with everything you say, but if I don’t live with the person I’m seeing, I’m afraid he’ll walk out on me.”

” . . . You’re so afraid, so you give the guy everything he wants without any commitment on his part.  You move in with him, so now he has a girlfriend, a cook, a housekeeper, a companion – all free of charge with no responsibilities.  You convince yourself that you can trust him when he says, ‘Eventually we’ll get married, honey, I’m just not ready yet.’  A year goes by, then two, and then, as in your case, three years.  Meanwhile, your biological clock is ticking away, and with every year that passes, the prospect of having a family becomes more and more remote.  Should you bring up the subject of marriage, he puts you off with, ‘Not yet!’  Finally, if you really press, he may break up or agree, but even if he agrees, it doesn’t mean a thing, as you so well know.  At the last minute, after living together for three years, he suddenly discovers that he loves you, but there are some issues that separate you.  . . . countless couples who live together only to divorce after they were married.  . . . ” (pp. 262-263)

So, what do you think?

(This one is from December 30, 2012, but I think its message is timeless.)

Rules in Our House

rule sheets, what you can do, what you can't do, rules, regulations

1) No playing with matches or touching them, unless you found it and are giving it immediately to an adult.

2) No playing with plugs, or sockets.

3) You may not go outside without permission.  (The flip side is, ‘You must lock the sliding thing at the top of the door every time someone goes out or in.’)

4) No banging your chair back so that it tilts on a diagonal.  (This used to be annoying and damaging to the chair.  Now it is also dangerous.)

5) No hitting or biting, either yourself or anyone else.

6) The parent who put you in time out is the parent who ends the time out.

7) Do not throw anything that is not soft.  (Ducks, pillows, and scarves are allowed to be thrown, and are often thrown as part of a game.  Balls are not included, either.)

8) If you throw your food or dump your bowl, you are officially done.

9) If you choose not to eat supper, you get nothing except water until 6:00am.  (This sounds awful, but it’s really not.  He either chooses to eat, or chooses to sleep.  This became a rule because he wanted to play instead of eating supper a few times, which lead to sleepless nights.  After two or three nights in a row, I understood that it was a game and a habit – that gained him more playtime, and attention in the middle of the night.  So, we made the rule.  It only had to be tested once, and now he makes his choice and accepts the consequences.  Yeah, it was awful.  Yeah, it was mean.  But oh, man, was it necessary.  And better now, when he can’t get out of bed, than later, when he’ll be able to.)

10) Only Mommy milk is instant.  Everything else takes at least a few minutes to prepare.  Since you chose not to drink Mommy milk anymore, you no longer have instant food.  And not always, at every second, can we give you attention.  The moment we can, we will.

11) Writing is only on paper.  Not on laundry baskets, floors, walls, or buckets.

12) You can take a big-person book off the shelf to read it.  You may not take it off the shelf to step on it or otherwise harm it.  Books that get torn will get you put in time-out (only since he started ripping books to see how we were going to react; before that, we took the book away and told him that we don’t rip books).

13) After you make a mess, you have to help clean up.  After you help clean up, you get lots of praise.

14) When someone is talking to you, listen.  (This is a rule for the parents, too.)

15) If you hurt someone, you have to apologize, give a hug, and do “gentle”.  Hitting in order to get attention, gets you none.  If you want something, ask nicely.

Rules for the parents:

a) Do not make a rule that you cannot or will not uphold.  It lowers your status considerably.  (I learned this from my own parents, the hard way.)

b) Choose your battles.  If it’s not dangerous, and he’ll grow out of the stage, let it be.  For instance, if he wants to wear a belt with an outfit that doesn’t need it, or if he wants to mismatch his clothes, let it be.  No kid does this after they’ve grown up.  Or, if he wants to take all his clothes out of his drawers, let it be.  It takes about ten minutes to put them away neatly, and five seconds to dump them in.  No kid does this when they grow up – unless they’re looking for something.  So, let it be.  Ditto for your clothes.  But not for Dad’s pants that must be folded a certain way; those you have to teach the kid not to touch.

c) Stick with your rules, and give appropriate punishments.  For instance, banging the furniture next to your playpen at 2:00am cannot be punished with time-out, because both parent and child need to go to sleep and are overtired.  So, the punishment is psychological:  Tell the kid that he had a choice of where to sleep, but now, since he made a bad choice, Mommy is going to decide where he sleeps.  Then put him back in the playpen (note: playpen has been out of use for months now), which was what you were going to do anyways.  Note that this is not really a punishment, but it sounds like one to the child, who doesn’t know whether or not you were going to let him decide.  Also note that the option of pushing punishment off until morning is kind of stupid when the child is less than two years old.

d) Don’t do something that you’ll regret later.  For instance, don’t go out when it’s almost naptime.  If you do decide to risk it, be prepared for either a very late nap and a later bedtime, or for a very cranky toddler.  Either way, you have only yourself to blame.

e) Anything that you do not want to see played with, needs to go high up.  Otherwise, you have only yourself to blame.

f) Items on the counter must be at least two inches from the edge.

g) Act mad, don’t be mad.  And even if it’s so funny that you can’t be mad, you’d better play the part, or the kid will never learn.

h) Save the real anger and yelling for the big stuff – like running into the street.  Ditto for slaps.

i) Something you don’t like – time-out.  Something moderately dangerous (picking up the cord to the fan or a box of matches) – gets a gentle slap on each hand and time out.  Something extremely dangerous (trying to plug the cord in, opening the box of matches, running into the street) gets a not-so-gentle slap on each hand, three slaps on the bottom that wear the parent out and barely hurt the kid – there’s a diaper, remember – and time out.

j) Messing around with documents like birth certificates, passports, and the like is categorized as “moderately dangerous”, earning a gentle slap on each hand and time-out.

l) When the child is playing or reading nicely, or helping out, give lots of specific praise.  (“Wow, you really listened quickly; I didn’t even finish the sentence!” or “This is going so fast.  There’s no way I’d be able to clean everything up this fast without your help.”  or “You knew just what I needed!  I didn’t even have to look for my shoes!”)

m) Admit when you are wrong, and apologize for it.

n) Kids are smart; treat them as such.  Teach them what they can touch and what they cannot.  Teach them to take responsibility for, and to accept the consequences, of their actions.

o) Take responsibility for your actions and accept the consequences of them.  Yeah, many adults have issues with this.  That’s a big problem, but it’s not one of mine, not one of Yitzchak’s, and won’t be a problem for any of our kids, G-d willing.

(This one is from November 2012.  See what happens when I go through five pages of drafts?)