Monday, November 7, 2011

words, words, words

I am loving the almost-two-ness of W these days. His language skills are exploding, right before my eyes. He repeats everything we say, he's putting together short sentences of his own making, and he is expressing his own ideas in word form. We always knew what he meant by his facial expressions and the pointy little finger he'd jab at us or at something he wanted to touch or hold. But language! It's so amazing to witness.

We had a baby naming ceremony yesterday and it was absolutely lovely. Eliza got her Hebrew name and our family and friends were very pleased. I may have mentioned this before, but I'm a secular Episcopalian and my partner is a secular Jew, and it was more important to him than to me that we teach the kids about our traditions, so we did a Bris for my son and a Naming Ceremony for her. I am totally on board with this plan, but every now and then I feel like an outsider in my own family. I don't share my partners' or my kids' last names (again, I am totally on board--I've long hated my last name and his is melodic) and I'm not Jewish. I didn't think it would matter--and it really doesn't in the grand scheme of things--but at moments like the naming ceremony yesterday, I felt that outsiderness. I don't know Hebrew, I was only marginally a part of the ceremony, and I know that when the Cantor was singing out the long connection to the Jewish tradition that Eliza is now part of, he didn't really mean to include me. He did because he's a kind and generous man, but the tradition he was referring to does not include lapsed Episcopalians who are really agnostic and spiritual, not religious or connected to a cultural heritage by birth.

In a sense, I felt out of words, not the ones I was saying, but the ones that were being said about my daughter. I feel more comfortable with the words of W--his word salad includes me. Depends on me, in a sense, and connects me to him more than either of these ceremonies did.

I am very glad we did both ceremonies and I think I will be glad that the kids have this cultural, historical, and personal connection to their father and to Judaism. But I will need to find ways to become more connected, myself, either by last name or by becoming like a secular Jew myself. Not sure where my path will lead me.


  1. I love this post. I've never been in your situation but I can understand how you feel, apart, and how hard that must be. When we were naming my daughter I refused to let her just have my partner's name. As a teacher I find it so confusing when I'm emailing parents with a different last name than their kids, if they don't specify their child's last name sometimes I'm not sure who they belong to! It's so hard. I didn't want that to happen with my daughter and I, so the poor thing got saddled with both last names, and one has two words so its a three word last name. It's messy and not the best solution but I couldn't handle anything else. All of it's so much harder than it seems it should be, but words, especially as they name things, are so important. They set us apart from all living things.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Yes. Language development has been one of the most amazing things about being a parent for me. It's so fantastic to watch it unfold.

    And, I can understand your feeling about religious and cultural traditions. G and I are both very secular and G is, somewhat unfortunately, kind of a rebel when it comes to traditions. Still, I crave that kind of ceremony and connection now that I have a child. It makes me think that we should come up with our own traditions.

    Also, thank you so much for your kind words of support. I have been having a really hard time with this whole separation thing. I assume it's partly because it all brings me back to the circumstances of g's birth, partly because I can't seem to shake the feeling that this is all my fault, and, I'm pretty sure, partly due to the fact that I am sort of a hormonal mess these days! I was a bit of a mess today and your comment made all the difference.

  3. I converted about 6 months after the twins were born and we all went in the Mikvah together, which was really nice. Our bris and baby naming event was the traditional 8 ? Days out. Those traditions are great. I am trying to push my own traditions: Thanksgiving, Fourth of July so it's balanced with my heritage too. It's a challenge sometimes.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for commenting! It's very good to hear that I'm not alone in thinking about traditions, whether old and long-held or new and family-created. I do sort of wish, Esperanza, that I had given the kids my last name as a second middle name. It might have been confusing, but at least I'd feel that connection. Long confusing names give a kid some character, I think!

    All your comments are making me think that I really do need to be proactive about which traditions/creations I want to keep. Otherwise, the time might slip.

    Slowmamma: I'm so glad that my comment arrived when you needed it! Feeling supported is so important...

    And Jjiraffe: I've never met a woman who actually converted--thanks for mentioning it here. It's definitely on my mind. Now I just have to figure out a way to pursue it in a more formal way. Not that I'm going to do it, necessarily, but I'd like to get to know Judaism better. For me, for my kids, and for my DH.