Friday, December 26, 2008

Hannukah, Teenage Angst, and Snowstorm Malaise

Here we go again!

I love snow. Normally. Really, I do. But in the past two weeks we have had one storm after another. And this week, I have left the subdivision once. On Wednesday. For an hour at the grocery store.

The storms have come one after another, and the county is not doing a great job plowing our road. So we have been snowbound.

And our Hannukah has been strange. Not bad. Just strange. For the second and third night we had the Boychick's friend A. (also Jewish) snowed in with us. For some reason, the Boychick decided that it would be cool to demonstrate teenage angst about the Hannukah observance.

Before we light the candles, we usually talk about the meaning of Hannukah. On each night, our discussion is framed by a Hebew word expressing a Jewish value or a Maccabean value. On the first night that A. was here both boys acted like they had never heard of the Maccabees when we talked about Jewish Identity and the importance of knowing who we are.

This irritated me a bit because, after all, we have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours sending these little tw . . . uh, young men to Hebrew School and Machon. "What do you mean, you don't know much about Hannukah?" I said. Forcefully.

The Engineering Geek said to me (out of the side of his mouth), "This is the result of all those years of discussing the damn December Dilemma* rather than telling the kids straight up who they are and what they are expected to do about it." That may be true. But certainly they have discussed the Maccabees recently? The boys say that they haven't. But I don't want to get started on the state of Jewish education in the Reform movement these days . . . been there, done that, got the blog entries. And anyway, there was that eye-rolling, 'this is just so tiresome' teenage angst to deal with. So I made them watch the Sam Glaser/JewishFan You-Tube. I will leave the heavy sighs and peach-fuzz lip facial expressions to your imagination.

*It is rather peculiar that in the Reform Movement's Jewish Education, they spend more time talking about how it feels to be different in December, and how it's not so bad to have a Christmas tree in a Jewish home, rather than teaching a solid understanding of why we celebrate Hannukah, why it's not a major holiday, and what it has to do with Jewish Identity. In fact, it reminds me of a joke. But I will tell it later . . . Just think about Jessica Tansley's line in Driving Miss Daisy: With a nose like that, she has no right to be hollaring 'Merry Christmas!' But I digress.

On the nights of Hannukah, while the candles burn, we have a rule that all family members will stay in the room, and we will do something together. Usually, we sing some Hannukah songs, open a present, play games, or read aloud. But no TV and no computers.

On the same night as the Maccabee Ignorance Claim, we played dreidl for a while, after A. and the Boychick both opened their presents. A. actually got into it, but the Boychick used those special teen signals to let us know exactly how juvenile and tiresome it all was. Life. With. Parents. Is. Just. So. B-O-O-O-RING.

Bruce and I exchanged glances. And pretended we did not notice any of it. They. Do. Turn. Back. Into. Humans. Eventually.

But when they are being especially obnoxious, when they are performing for their friends, doing anything together as a family takes much more effort.

Over the next nights of Hannukah, I have been ready. On the third night I sat the boys down and said to them:
"Remember in the You-Tube how they said that studying Torah was a capital offense? Do you know what that means? Do you know what they did to the mothers and babies that were circumcised in defiance of the tyrant's decrees?" And we read Hannah and her Seven Sons from one of the books of Maccabees. (These are in the Jewish Apocrypha).

Then the EG asked them: Suppose you lived in those times. First, you were told you had to sacrifice to the genus of Antiochus. Then you were told you had to sacrifice a pig on the altar. Then you were forced to eat pig. Then you were forced to watch your sons compete naked in the gymnasium. Then you were forbidden to teach and study Torah on pain of death. Then you were forced to watch an execution of a woman and her baby because the baby had a bris. At what point would you stand up for your values? Why that point?"

They both responded with some sighs and angst, but then as they disagreed with one another, we actually had a reasonable conversation. Reasonable for teens.
And the Boychick's attitude has become more cooperative since A. went home. Not because A. is a problem, but because there's no one to perform for except parents. And we are not impressed.

Outside, we now have around six inches and the snow is still falling steadily.
Earlier we took the dogs out. They have to go, rain, shine or blizzard.

And our little Tomboy Lily made me reconsider my grumpy reaction to yet another blizzard.

She just loves snow! Her ears perk up, she gets excited. She romps and plays in it.

That's the thing about the dogs. They are always happy about something. They get excited about the important things: Snow. Snoozing. People coming home. Walks. Dinner. Being together.

They may create mischief now and then. But there's never a moment of angst.

Happy Hannukah!


Unknown said...

Gavin has always turned into a different child when friends are over- or he is over at their house.... ug. and my boys still like to pretend they don't remember a thing we teach them. SO Frustrating! but I know they really do know itand the reason for knowing is not to prove to me that they know. I just hope they someday act like the they know..LOL

Melora said...

Sounds to me like you handled the teen angst very well (maybe the second time through is easier? or at least less of a surprise?). Dogs are certainly more straightforward.

Magpie Ima said...

I so get the snowstorm malaise! All I can say is hang in there and try to enjoy any enforced calm. Once our streets started to clear things got hectic again so I am beginning to miss the calm of being snowed in.

We had a non-Jewish teen guest on the first night who trekked over in the snow. Because he was interested, my two teens did a great job explaining things to him and were more engaged than I've seen them in other years.

Teens are so weird and mysterious, aren't they?

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Kaber: That they did know something is my suspicion, too. However, since there has been such chaos in the religious ed at our synagogue for so long, I suspect that neither of them know as much as their elder siblings do.
I agree: I just hope that someday they actually talk as if they know something! Anything! :) Teenagers!

Melora: Is the second time around easier? Yes. And no. Yes, because I don't get nearly as upset with certain angsty behaviors like this, since I know that it is part of the "cool" act. No, because my boy is so very different than my girl was. Actually, he is easier because he doesn't slam doors and scream that the world hates him. On the other hand, sometimes the "cool" act drives me to the adult female version of insane! I'd rather get a response--any response. Durn it!!!