Monday, September 20, 2010

Frum People Don't Kiss or Hug Their Spouses...

... or at least that's what one couple wants their nearly teenage daughter to believe.

A very interesting and sad thread appeared on Imamother this past week in which the topic was discussed.  In the thread, a woman says that her very sheltered 12 year old daughter accidentally saw her neighbors making out on the couch.  The couple had apparently left their blinds open and hence the daughter was able to see them kissing and hugging.  Being very sheltered, she probably never saw anyone kiss beyond a quick peck on the cheek and was disgusted that her neighbors -- otherwise fine Jews (from my reading of the post) -- were "acting like chilonim."  As the poster puts it:

Obviously I'll never know just how much she saw but she was in total shock that this couple were "behaving like chilonim" and she was nauseous over the whole thing. Needless to say, my dd is very sheltered and could not imagine that anyone Charedi would do something so disgusting! 


The poster's first instinct was to tell the kid the truth -- that married couples do engage in such behavior but that it is meant to be private and that the couple should not have been doing such when others can see them.  And so she told her daughter.  Her daughter's reaction:


She was not happy with that answer and of course, started to ask me about her father and myself.  I didn't give her a straight answer but I did let her know that it's normal and natural.

So far, so good.  Kid sees something that was meant to be private.  Being a pre-teen and never having been exposed to this, she's kind of grossed out - a perfectly natural, normal reaction (given her upbringing).  Mother tells the child that it's normal and natural for couples to behave this way and that she'll learn more about it as she gets older.  

But the story doesn't end there.  When the woman's husband hears about the story, his reaction is different.  In her words:

When DH found this out he was not a happy camper. He would rather have her think that the neighbors are pervs or something. Oy.

And sure enough, he does just this.  In a later post, the woman recounts what happened the next day:

She ran to tell my dh about it this morning before I woke up. He told her that it's ossur and not done and that the neighbors are not beseder and that the only reason I said that it is done is because I didn't want to say bad things about the neighbors and that I didn't know what to say. She asked me if that's true and I said yes.

and

My husband says that the mere fact that she got such a shock from what she saw is enough of a reason to make sure she gets back on track and the only way to get her back to her equilibrium is to let her think that it's wrong. He says it's allowed by halacha to lie about this. I said that she'll eventually know I'm a liar and he said that the important thing here is not if I'm a liar or not - it's her state of mind.

The thread goes on for seven pages in total and in those seven pages, EVERY single woman who expressed an opinion on the matter all agreed that the initial response was the correct one and that her husband's approach was wrong.  These responses come from just about all segments of Orthodox Judaism as represented on Imamother -- Chareidi, Chassidic, Litvish, Modern Orthodox, etc.  Yet, in the end, she continues to stand by her husband's decision.

So, what's the end result here?

1.  Over the next few years, one or both of the following is going to happen to this poor girl:

     a.  She will internalize the message her father gave her, come to view physical intimacy with loathing and disgust and possibly even suffer from self-hate when her own hormones kick in and she begins to have desires for physical intimacy.  Oh, and heaven help her kallah teacher and future husband.


     b.  She will find out from her friends that her parents lied to her and that they cannot be trusted to provide her with serious mature answers to the important questions in life.

2.   The father, by telling his daughter that "it's ossur and not done and that the neighbors are not beseder" has, in effect, told her that the neighbors are disgusting perverts.  Granted, they should have closed the window blinds, but from the mother's description, it doesn't sound like we're dealing with serial exhibitionists here - it was a mistake, pure and simple.  But the father chose to paint them as deviants rather than have the courage to face the truth with his daughter.

3.  By telling his daughter that her mother lied, she, in effect, helped to undermine her credibility.  By "confirming" the "lie" (which, mind you, was in fact the truth), she has put herself in a position (vis-a-vis her daughter) from which she has no credible resolution.  IMHO, undermining a spouse's authority with anyone (and *especially* with her children) is one of the worst things you can do in a marriage. 

I don't want to address the fact that this couple has obviously never shown affection for each other in front of their kids.  If that's the way they want to run their marriage, that's their business.  It's not how Eeees and I run ours.  Our kids see us hug and kiss.  They can visibly see the affection that we have for each other -- whether we're in physical contact or not.  Eeees and I believe that it's healthy for children to see these things (and yes, they did go through their "ewwww" phase -- but they got over it) and to see that hugging, kissing and physical intimacy (within limits, of course) are perfectly normal and healthy in a married relationship. 

I can understand a parent wanting to keep their child sheltered.  It's a perfectly natural parental reaction.  Yes, some parents tend to overdo it, but at the core of a parent is the desire to protect his or her child.  Unfortunately, however, children cannot be sheltered forever.  At some point, they will have to be told about subjects that you might not want brought up -- and sometimes they'll come up sooner than you like.

We had this issue with one of our children.  Eeees and I were forced to give him information about intimacy sooner than we would have liked.  No, s/he didn't walk in on us or anything like that -- but s/he became aware of some information on his/her own and we, as parents, had to put that information in the proper context.  We could have lied to the kid and we could have buried our heads in the sand -- but that would have been the wrong thing to do.  The child would have grown up and internalized the wrong message about intimacy -- and that would have required far more extensive "fixing" later on and a total loss of trust in us as parents. So, we chose the responsible choice -- giving the child the information s/he needed and putting it in the proper context.

Children are naturally curious about the world.  They will constantly ask questions, and they will sometimes see or hear things that you would rather they not know about.  But a child also needs to know that they can come to their parents for accurate information when they see something that so shakes the foundation of their world.  That doesn't mean that you *have* to answer every question -- sometimes a subject should be avoided or pushed off -- but a child needs to understand that a parent won't lie to them.  As one poster in the thread beautifully put it, you can't be mechanech with sheker - period.

Perhaps our method isn't for everyone -- but I can say this:  if my kids had accidentally spied a married couple making out, they might have been a bit grossed out -- but they also would have realized that it's a natural part of the relationship.  Furthermore, they would know that they can talk to us about it and receive honest and truthful answers.  Eeees and I don't lie to our kids, nor do we EVER make the other parent out to be a liar.

The Wolf

Hat tip:  Pesky Settler and OnionSoupMix

25 comments:

S. said...

The good news: every single poster, except for the original one, thought it was handled all wrong.

BrooklynWolf said...

S.

Agreed 100%!

The Wolf

English Major said...

My, how awkward. I wouldn't want to be in these parents' shoes - when I first became "aware" when I was a kid I thought it was the grossest thing in the world.

But once upon a time the world wasn't so Victorian about this subject. Children knew everything (and I mean everything) from a very young age, simply due to the culture that didn't see that information as repugnant; it's how the world works. It's in the Torah, for pity's sake.

This man is reacting to today's culture, not from any religious perspective. The parents shouldn't lie (at least not about this; there are other things to lie about), nor should they let this child think the worst of their neighbors. It's a bad precedent.

Anonymous said...

Was it worth it for you to write up this whole post because of one man? It's one thing when you don't agree with a whole segment of people, but one man? I'm sure there are a lot of individual people with crazy opinions you don't agree with.

Dave said...

Wolf -

What would your reaction towards your child be, if he walked into intimate marital relations when he was 9 years old? How would you explain it to your 9 year old?

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

Obviously, I did think it was worth it. I've commented on individual opinions before.

Dave,

Well, it wouldn't happen because we always lock our door. But let's suppose it did anyway. The answer is that it depends, of course -- but I would never lie.

I think most nine year olds can understand at a basic level that Mommies and Daddies have ways of loving each other in private, that it's perfectly normal and that he will understand more as he gets older. I would NEVER, on the other hand, tell him that it was dirty or wrong or something that only "chilonim" do. And I would always leave the door open (pun intended) for questions (although I may not answer every question in detail).

In addition, a twelve year old is far different than a nine year old. A twelve year old shouldn't be lied to about sex -- and certainly not about something as common as hugging and kissing.

The Wolf

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

> Well, it wouldn't happen because we always lock our door.

"We're not like those Catholics. We can use precautions."
"Like what, lock the door?"
(Monty Python, the Meaning of Life)

E-Man said...

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, our Rabbi brought a doctor in to talk to us about marital relationships. I think this is the appropriate way to handle it since it exposes the children to this right before their hormones go into overdrive and it is guided in an appropriate fashion. Plus, we were learning gemara and obviously you need to know about this stuff when learning gemara so it doesn;t just jump out at you.

Ezzie said...

What S. said.

Karen Hening-Speedone said...

The neighbors were in the privacy of their home. It would be a grave injustice for the daughter to have a negative opinion of them when they have done nothing wrong. The mother needs to call a Rav about this.

JRS said...

"This man is reacting to today's culture, not from any religious perspective."

beg to differ. You may claim the father's view does not accurately reflect the enlightened views of daas Torah (and that would be your subjective opinion)---but in any case, wrong or right, this guy holds those views from his religious perspective, just as Islamic terrorists do what they do because of their religion despite 'moderate' Moslems protesting that "That's not what Islam is about". (it's just an analogy!)
And this guy's perspective on frumkeit is far from unique; he's just another misguided, frummer-than-the-Torah chasid-shoyte---they're as common as... new chumros in Lakewood.

chaim1 said...

The father is not saying its 'wrong'. He is saying its 'wrong' that his daughter knows about it.
No one has mentioned the chumash that Avimelech saw Isaac having some kind of relations with Rivka through a window.
I suppose it really depends on the girl. One cannot generalise, it may be better now for her not to know and think the neighbours are chilonim. I suppose they are doing other things 'wrong' as well otherwise she wouldnt believe the parents. So its not such a 'big deal' to call them that for this although of course it isnt.
In the gemoro one sees girls (and boys) indulged in these things at a very young age so its not a halacha at all that a girl or boy must not know about these things.

Jenny said...

Apparently this girl is so sheltered, they don't teach her basic parts of chumash either (Gen 26:8).

Mike S. said...

The father is speaking lashon hara about the neighbors and his wife, is m'zayef the Torah hakedoshah, Rachamana litzlan, and is causing the daughter to suspect both the mother and the neighbors. And what is the girl going to think of Yitzchak and Rivka when she gets to that section of Chumash?

And what is the supposed good that will come of this? I suppose the point is to keep her from making out before marriage, but what about after she is married? This is kind of like telling a child Jews don't eat to make sure the kid keeps kosher. You need to teach the child to distinguish permitted from impermissible food. Same here.

chaim1 said...

In the olden times women had to 'leave' the house for a week and wear special clothes. Whatever did the little kids think the reason was. The rabbis made a special takana that an orphan girl under age could marry. A boy of nine could 'be' with his 'dead brothers' wife unmarried. This idea of today of 'hiding' does not seem to be Jewish at all.

Tzipporah said...

"In the olden times women had to 'leave' the house for a week and wear special clothes. Whatever did the little kids think the reason was."

And more importantly, who took care of the kids while they were gone? ;)

Dave said...

Let's not excuse the inexcusable behavior of the young neighbor couple who left their very private matters be displayed in public.

Inexcusable.

mlevin said...

How could the girl be that sheltered? I see teens making out on the streets all the time (before and after school)? Besides how could two people making out disturb an innocent girl? Make her curious I understand, but disturb?

I think that either neighbors were doing more than just making out or these parents continuously drilled into the girl's head that all love and affection between sexes is sinful so she was shocked to discover frum neighbors do it.

JRS said...

Yes, one CAN generalize: there is NO way that it is good to lie to a child about this: the lying approach to chinuch is wrong, and the content of this lie---that affection between man & wife is sinful---is so very wrong.
This little repressed-fanatic-in the-making is 12 years old, for G-d's sake! She's old enough to learn about boundaries, right-time-&-place, etc.---everything need not be totally Good or Evil. At 5 or 6, my kids (& plenty of others) were being told--and using the term themselves--- "That's not appropriate."... they may not get all the nuances of the word, but they totally 'chap' the basic concept that something may not be wrong but is merely improper for a certain age/time/situation. It's funny how frum folk tend to hold that we're oh-so-much-smarter than goyim, but we constantly dumb things down, invariably thinking 'the oilam' is incapable of distinguishing basic shades of grey.

Anonymous said...

I love when people ask the idiot question "what if your kid walked in on you ".

Do they walk in on you when you're in the bathroom ????? No. Because people lock the bathroom door !!!

This is a private manner as well !!! It takes 10 seconds or less. Lock the damn door !!!


From the MalachHamovies !!

e-kvetcher said...

>This is a private manner as well !!! It takes 10 seconds or less.

I assume you're talking about locking the door? :)

Anonymous said...

Yes i am. Sorry. I should have clarified it.

MalachHamovies !!

BrooklynWolf said...

Let's not excuse the inexcusable behavior of the young neighbor couple who left their very private matters be displayed in public.

Inexcusable.


Dave,

No one is excusi9ng them -- but it should be pointed out that based on my reading of the post on Imamother, this was simply an accident -- where they forgot to close the shades. It doesn't sound like they are serial exhibitionists or intended to do this in view of the public.

The Wolf

mlevin said...

Inexcusable? I still don't see people making out as something shocking. Am I missing something? Or does making out in the frum world mean something more than what it means in the secular world?

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the five year-old who asked his mother where babies come from.When his mother answered,"the stork",the kid said,"yeah,I know all that.But who has sex with the stork?"