Saturday, October 26, 2013

She's a Mean One, Madame Grinch

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Every two weeks, LO comes home from his language intensive preschool with a new set of flash cards and a song book. For instance, back in September, his flash cards were for farm animals, which we used with the song "Old MacDonald." LO really likes the colorful pictures and the songs, and I LOVE hearing his vocabulary grow by leaps and bounds.

The most recent flash cards that came home were for Halloween vocabulary, with an accompanying song called "In the Haunted House" (sung to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus"). Other than the fact that the kids in the house go "Let us out!", which I think we can all agree is unnecessarily terrifying, the Halloween flash cards and song were adorable.

And yet, I was troubled.

You see, it hadn't occurred to me that LO's teacher would create an entire unit around Halloween vocabulary, seeing as it's a holiday that not everyone celebrates.

It made me wonder if Christmas vocabulary and activities are on the horizon--which I imagine they must be.


I don't want my nice Jewish little boy learning Christmas vocabulary at his public preschool.

We have reached yet another parenting dilemma wherein any option we choose will be wrong.

Let's say I call LO's teacher and nicely express my discomfort with a Christmas theme. That means I'm a grinch who is not only ruining the fun for the other 11 kids in LO's class, but I will also be creating a great deal more work for the teacher who probably reuses her materials from one year to the next. Add to this my feeling of hypocrisy considering the fact that I grew up with Christmas myself, and this seems like a non-starter.

Okay, so what if I ask LO's teacher to include Hannukah in her holiday theme?

Well, there are three problems with this. The first is that Hannukah falls freakishly early this year, which means the teacher would have to include words like menorah in her Thanksgiving theme--and still provide an undiluted Christmas theme later on, meaning my kid will still be learning straight Christmas vocabulary close to the end of December.

The second problem is that true inclusiveness is impossible. Would the kids also learn about Kwanzaa and Eid? It seems silly to have all the kids learn that vocabulary, when none of them will need it--which shows how silly it is to have all the kids learn the words latke and dreidel when only my kid needs it.

Finally, including Hannukah just adds to the societal perception of Hannukah as Jewish Christmas, which drives me crazy. I have had well-educated gentile acquaintances express genuine surprise when I tell them that Hannukah is really not a big deal of a holiday. Allowing Hannukah to be the included Jewish holiday just because it happens to fall near one of the important holidays in the Christian calendar just adds to that misconception. I'd really rather not be part of that.

So that leaves me with doing nothing on the school side of the equation and performing ex post facto Christmas cleanup with LO. Which is certainly something I will be doing throughout his childhood--explaining how we as Jews have many wonderful holidays that are fun and meaningful. But is it even possible to avoid the inevitable shine of forbidden fruitcake to the holiday that everyone else celebrates?

And like a reformed stoner telling his kids not to get high, I will feel an indelible sense of hypocrisy no matter what I do, since I did grow up with Christmas, and I did love it as a child--although I also found it confusing.

I knew all of this was coming. It's part and parcel of being a Jewish parent in mainstream America. But I had hoped that I could hold off on these worries and these unwinnable battles for a few more years.

Still, I need to call LO's teacher and find out exactly what she's planning.

It's entirely possible that I've put myself through a couple of weeks of guilt-ridden fears of grinchly hypocrisy for no reason.

Because that would be the first time in recorded history that a Jewish mother got herself worked up over nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Hm. Considering Ramadan was this summer, the big Eid fell near the end of July. Other than that, you could consider any Holiday-themed education an anthropological study for your kid. It's important to learn about other cultures and religions to have a better sense of your own, a better definition of self, no? You could use it as a learning tool. "Other kids celebrate these holidays and these are their symbols. What are some holidays that WE celebrate?" and so on.