My husband and I are immeasurably relieved to have had two girls. And no sons.
Yes, that’s 100% true.
(Is your mind racing to tell me how wrong I am yet?)
Ok, now I’ll tell you why that’s 100% true.
It’s because I did not have to decide whether or not to circumcise – a decision I would have agonized over, were I to have given birth to a son.
Another study has come out, once again, that is sure, once again, to incite a whirlwind of activity among the debaters of the question of circumcision. And now that my own husband has been genitally mutilated for the benefit of our reproductive freedom and the universe is certain that I will not be having a son, I am no longer afraid to think concretely about the subject.
I am accused, all the time, of being a hippie – or at least, of being pretty crunchy. I homebirthed. I babywore. I breastfed each of my girls for more than two years. I cook organic, healthy meals. I co-slept, and still do when the girls feel like they cannot possibly rest unless one of their feet is lodged in my ribs. I don’t trust the drugstore to supply anything that has to touch my children’s skin. I have been a vocal opponent of cry-it-out and sleep training in general.
I used to judge other parents, maybe a lot. I can’t anymore. The longer I am a mother, the better I feel about the decisions I make, and the more I empathize with the decisions that other parents make.
Yet, my feelings on circumcision are not clear, and I dealt with those feelings by praying I would never have to make a decision about it one way or another. And as I said, and as you know, I never did. Phew.
Because even though I am kind of a hippie, I am also a Jew. One who supposes herself more of a cultural, than religious, Jew, but a Jew nonetheless, used to matzo ball soup and loud (loud!) family get-togethers and circumcised penises. But like I said, I am not religious, and willing to bend or ignore rules to suit my family and my values. So of course, just as I have chosen to be a Jew that has tattoos and eats bacon, I could also be a Jew that joins a growing movement of those that do not believe in circumcising their baby boys.
But here’s something else – I’m not sure I think it’s so horrible.
I mean, it is – it is horrible to inflict pain on my child and alter the appearance of a body part for no discernable reason, and I didn’t even like it when a nurse tried to stick my newborn daughter’s heel for a blood test.
But I might just have circumcised my son.
Because I am a Jew. And it’s normal to me. And I married someone who is not a Jew. And I am concerned, all the time, about passing on the things I think are important about my background – their background – to them. And I worry about diluting our background, yet do not want, ever, to force them on a path that is not right for them. I want them to choose who, what they want to be, how they want to live, and I want only to open, not shut doors for them.
So I might just have circumcised my son for this very reason. What if I had had a son, and I did not circumcise him and that closed off a path to the Jewish religion that he might have wanted, might have needed, to pursue?
Like I said, I do not want to push my children in any direction; merely give them the security and the knowledge and the support they need to head off in whatever way they choose. But I feel, in my heart of hearts, that had I a son and not circumcised him, I would have closed a door to him before he ever had a chance to decide if he would have preferred that door remain open.
And please don’t offer the argument that by not practicing, say, Buddhism or Sufiism or Marxism that I am already closing doors that a child of mine might want to walk through, left, right and centre. I don’t think that, as a parent, I’m supposed to know everything, but I do believe I should teach them who they are and what I know about that.
Maybe you see my struggle by now, or maybe you think I am nuts or just plain wrong. I see all of those things when I allow myself to think about it. I guess I am pleading religious tolerance or simply trying to work through guilt I carry over something that hasn’t – and won’t ever – even occurred. I am Jewish, after all; I wear guilt like others wear cute scarves.
Where is my husband in this, you may ask. He was always standing right beside me, assuring me that he would support whatever I decide, for he saw that the struggle was mine. I will not tell you what he ‘looks’ like, only that he would not have tried to persuade me one way or another, knowing how tangled the decision is with my (cultural) identity in general. He’s a good man.
And I am a mother to two girls, who refuses to judge or jury any other mother over whether or not they circumcise their son.