Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Daycare and the Plague

When baby Chalal started going to day care a few months ago, it seemed perfect. A few partial days a week, socialization, different toys, etc. etc. I mean, this was the *best* daycare in town, and we had somehow lucked out and gotten him in, and he loved it!

As I burbled on about our great great joy, a colleague smirked at me and said, "Oh, so he'll be sick for a year."

No, surely not. I mean, yes, he will meet and greet some new germy playmates, build up his immunity, get some sniffles. But not sick for an entire year, straight. (In my mind, day care was going to be his cowpox - a little discomfort now to avoid lots of illness and whining when he hit kindergarten.)

But they didn't warn me about Break Week.

You see, care designed for children of grad students takes into account the academic calendar. After Finals, there's a "Break Week" when students may or may not have to hang around campus, and thus may or may not need childcare.

Since there are fewer children in need of care, they combine the two "Littles" groups into one room.

Yup. Combined.

New kids.

New germs.

At the height of cold and flu season.

Right before winter break.

Picture a tired mom with a nasty cold, in a house with two other people with a nasty cold, after a week of all having the nasty cold together in close quarters. Can't go out and see friends or family, because we wouldn't want to give them the cold. Can't go outside because it's cold, and you're all sick. Can't even go out to the store or get the oil changed or order takeout, because, that's right - everything's closed on Christmas.

Oh, did I mention that the food I got to cook for us over the last few days went bad? So we were living on cereal and cheesy toast. Mmmm.

Thanks, day care folks! You sadistic bastards.

Chalal and I are now (mostly) recovered, just the hacking cough to get rid of. Bad Cohen is going to the doctor today to test for strep. And whatever other gunk is going on.


(G-d am I glad to be back at work)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why we Hosted the Hanukkah Party

Poor Bad Cohen just got through finals week, and was immediately set to task cleaning, shopping, and cooking for the family Hanukkah party, which I had offered to host.

"Why are we having it at our house?" he groaned, looking at the piles of dishes, laundry, dust, etc. that had piled up over the last few weeks, during his fever-pitch end-of-term studying.

"Because we have enough room for everyone. And because I didn't want to have another Hanukkah party in a house with a Christmas tree."

Hmm. Hadn't really thought about that second part until he asked me, but it was true. Almost all the other family members are intermarried - where one converted, she seems now to be only a token Jew. Almost every other house in the family has a Christmas tree. Sometimes next to the menorah, sometimes instead of it. Like almost every other measure of observance, we are the "observant" ones. (I'm sure that will make somebody shudder.)

What's so bad about a Christmas tree? They smell good, they're pretty, they're festive and cheery. Sure, and I still feel that way about them; after all, I grew up with them in my house. And by themselves, there's nothing wrong at all. I can totally enjoy the sight and smell of the tree at my (non-Jewish) parents' house.

But there is something fundamentally wrong with a Christmas tree in a Jewish home. It says, "Judaism isn't quite good enough for us. We need to add something else, something from another religion, to be happy."

I suppose this is how some Orthodox Jews must feel about feminism, or the liberal denominations' focus on tikkun olam.

To me, it was simple. I didn't want to have yet another Jewish holiday in a setting that said, implicitly or overtly, that the holiday, the religion, the brachas, the experience, was second-best, or not really important. That's not the lesson I want my son to learn about his identity.

But it's going to be a hard lesson to teach, given his extended family.