“Grandma, are you a Girl?”

“Grandma, are you a girl?”

My three-year-old grandson and I were sitting on the floor, like we usually do, playing with trucks, trains, and duplo blocks, creating various scenarios: fires to put out, meals to make and eat, building a school and playground, and so on.  DSCN1060

“Yes, S. Y, I am.”

“Why are you wearing pants? If you’re a girl you don’t wear pants.”

I explained that his great-grandmother and his aunt and me wear pants and dresses and skirts.  He accepted the answer, which my daughter-in-law thinks will satisfy him for a couple years.

In his world, women wear skirts. Long skirts. His mother and her family, his teachers, called  “morahs”, as in “Morah Sarit,” all wear skirts.

Like many rules in Orthodox Judaism, there’s never one simple answer to a question. Instead there’s a debate about issues that goes back thousands of years.  Basically, the dress code for women, as explained to me when my sons got married, is: knees, elbows, collar bone. My suits I wore to each wedding covered these essentials.

 Jacob & Adeena's Wedding 2/2/09

Jacob & Adeena’s Wedding 2/2/09Nathan & Karen's wedding, 3/15/09

Nathan & Karen’s wedding, 3/15/09

It’s all about adhering to “Tznius,” or observing modesty in dress and deed.  And as with every action in Orthodox Judaism, there’s an accompanying “Mitzvot” or commandment, that’s being fulfilled.  A woman is not allowed to wear men’s clothing (nor is a man allowed to wear women’s clothing. (Deuteronomy 22:5)

A cold and rainy day, I wore corduroys.  I knew I’d be sitting on the floor.  There’s a bit of irony here. I remember not being able to wear pants to school, a fact my daughter can’t believe.  Thick leggings went over tights, and had to be removed for the day and put back on for the bus ride home. I don’t think I wore pants—and not jeans—until I was in high school in the early 1970’s.

I know we’ll have more challenges about how we do things, what we eat, why we drive on Shabbat, why we don’t cover our heads, say bruchas, or blessings, and more as he and his sister and cousin get older.  I hope simple explanations and an acceptance of differences will suffice.

The rest of the afternoon proceeded without incident. Trains climbed mountains, trucks dumped loads of concrete, wood, and coal, and the duplo figures conducted their lives, making pancakes and peanut butter sandwiches.  At one point, I asked SY what he did in school today.

“I don’t want to talk about school. I only want to talk about the trucks.”



About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
This entry was posted in Family, Fashion, Grandchildren, Judaism, parenting. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to “Grandma, are you a Girl?”

  1. You’re a good grandma! I’m sure you will find a way to teach the value in differences. You’re SY is very cute!


  2. Classic line about school and trucks! Darling.


  3. That is very authoritative for a three year old. For him to take charge of the conversation and steer it the way he chooses is pretty remarkable. Most children that age would either answer you or ignore you…


    • He’s very focused. Part of the Montessori training I think, who knows.

      On Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 8:44 AM, cyclingrandma


      • esti wrotslavsky says:

        Yes, I’ve also noticed this authority! Especially if I try to call him a funny name (“Shayaloo” or something cutesy) he very sternly says, “My name is Shimon Yeshaya. NOT Shayaloo.”


  4. Patti Winker says:

    Well, well. Guess he told you then, eh Grandma? OK. Trucks it is. What a cutie. And you can almost hear the wheels in his head spinning right along with his trucks.

    I suspect SY will give you a run for your money. But what a wonderful opportunity to learn about diversity right in his own little family. I love it. I’m sure the questions will get tougher… well, they always do. But, it sounds like you’re ready. Bring it on, SY! Grandma can take it. 😉


  5. mercyn620 says:

    Kids say the darndest things…Years ago I took my niece out for lunch. She was in elementary school and attended a Jewish day school. We went for pizza. She asked if she could have a pepperoni pizza and I said sure. She looked at me and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone at school.”


  6. Most kids grow up thinking that the way they are raised is the norm. It’s good for kids to understand that everyone makes choices, and that there are many ways to live.


    • That’s my hope! We allowed our kids choices, I hope they do the same.


      • karen r-w says:

        I like how Naomi Baltuck put it. I would take it a step further though – even if a parent tells their kids that there is only one correct way to live (in this case it sounds like your children’s commitment to live a religious life) it’s good for kids to understand that everyone ultimately can choose their life path and that there are consequences of each choice. If the parents do a good job explaining the correct way to live and the negative consequences of other life paths, this knowledge should help strengthen the child’s commitment to the correct way. In sum, kid’s knowing they have a choice is a great thing as long as they know the consequences of the other options. The “choice” will then be obvious to them.


  7. adinparadise says:

    Kids do have a natural curiosity about anything different from their norm. S Y sounds like a very bright 3-year-old. He certainly keeps you on your toes. 🙂


  8. I love this for all of the reasons that you, in particular, can understand that I would. Close to home, but always comforting to read the shared experience. And, you are indeed a wonderful grandma!


  9. Coming East says:

    Such a wonderful post! He is an incredible child. It will be quite an experience following him as he matures. Hope you keep us posted!


  10. What a sweet child. ♥


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