What is the norm?Posted: September 24, 2012
Here at the House of Laurie Levine LCSW, (also known as The Nut House), I am having a conundrum that doesn’t seem to have an easy answer. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest day of the year for Jewish people all over the world is this Wednesday. This being followed by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, last Monday. Where I grew up in Boston, there isn’t (and wasn’t) school on the Jewish High Holidays nor is there school in many areas of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
My kids have always taken the day off from school for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and worshipped and celebrated with the family. Last week when one of my kids was in synagogue, he missed important things in school and fell a bit behind. With his heavy academic load and increased extra-curriculae activities (read: sports) (also missed on the Jewish holidays) there is little time to lollygag and spend time on extra homework due to missing school for religious reasons. Enter the conundrum: do I send this Jewish kid to school on Yom Kippur?
These thoughts bring to mind how all families struggle with merging their personal, cultural and familial beliefs with that of the “popular” outlook in our society. How do we respect what is important to us as a family and try to instill it into our kids while also integrating them (and us) into the world in which we live? This extends beyond culture and religion, many of us have personal morals and values that are different from those our neighbors. Plenty of moms have had to put their
Merrell wearing foot down to high heels, hair dye and shorts riding up to the dark side when their child’s classmates are strutting it like Lady Gaga around the 5th grade halls. A player on my son’s soccer team doesn’t play on Sunday mornings so that their family can attend church. I am sure that can’t be easy for him (especially because he is goalie and they need him ), but I respect their desire to keep what is a priority for them sacred in spite of the soccer commissioner’s game scheduling duties.
I often think about the Muslim families in our community who work and play amongst us while keeping close to their traditions. I have seen many young Muslim girls wearing a hijab in our local high schools. I have watched, with great respect, these same girls playing sports in a hijab and altered uniforms to protect their modesty. We have had two Muslim nannies for our children who have kindly made them lunch and dinner during Ramadan while I was at work. (Yom Kippur is also a fasting day. We’ve got nothing to kvetch about when we think about our Muslim neighbors who fast daily for a month. I digress.)
I have worked with many families from other countries and helped them try to integrate their cultural norms into those of our American society. The hardest thing I have had to address was that of corporal punishment. In many countries, spanking and beatings are the norm when disciplining children. I have had to explain to angry parents where English is their second language that corporal punishment is not tolerated in our society; Social Services can and will be called to their homes if their are bruises on their children.
I have also worked with families from other cultures that emphasize grades, particularly A‘s and only A‘s, so much so that their children have developed anxiety disorders. Be it that these parents want better for their children than they had, or they come from a society where the A’s were beaten out of them also, it can cause great stress for their children. I try to educate these parents about balance and joy; reminding them that their child’s health and well-being can be paramount to their success. Having said that, I appreciate the disconnect. These parents have been raised to believe that A’s (or corporal punishment) is the norm and the way to raise their children, who am I to alter that?
Back to my conundrum. My matzah balls for tonight’s meal are cooling on the stove. We clearly are embracing our tradition and will be observing Yom Kippur tomorrow. As for that one kid who may or may not go to school, I guess the jury is still out.
For those of you that will be observing Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy fast and a Happy New Year.