Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Take Care Of My Little Boy

"Macaroni for lunch again today, huh?" I teased. "I see the ketchup all over your shirt."

He looked down.

"That's not ketchup. It's blood."

I blinked hard, and looked again. It was blood. Splattered all over his little shirt.

"What happened?"

"My Rebbe hit me."

He said it so matter-of-factly, it took a moment to register. Just like that....'My Rebbe hit me.' Like, 'I tripped on my shoelace'. Like it was some normal, everyday occurrence. And if I didn't have the physical evidence, I would never have known what happened.

I sat down with him and listened.

The Rebbe slapped him on his face. Hard. Then he slapped him again. And again.

And again.

At some point, his hand made contact with my little boy's nose. The gushing blood finally stopped him.

I was stunned. Shaken. And angry. I looked at my little boy, and my heart twisted inside me.

I went to see the principal the next morning. He met my concerns with doubt, half-heartedly defending the Rebbe, and tried to dismiss me.

When I left the office, I knew that the Rebbe won't touch my kid again. I was able to protect my son, but I couldn't protect any of the other little boys.

I didn't hear the rest of the story until months later. How the Rebbe quickly ushered my son out of the classroom, stopped the bleeding, and tried plying him with candy.

And how he lost all respect for his Rebbe – not because of the slap, but because of what happened next.

The principal walked by and questioned the Rebbe. In front of my son and 25 second graders watching and listening through the open classroom door, he told the principal that another boy hit my son. My son was 7 years old. Too young to stand up for himself, but old enough to be deeply scarred by that experience. It taught him a lesson that no 7 year old should have to learn.

Ten years later, I don't think my son ever fully forgave that Rebbe. He is left with an intense dislike of the man entrusted with molding precious souls. A man who abused that sacred trust. A man who used his power to relieve his frustrations.

"I'm so excited for Yeshiva," my little boy tells me this morning.

"What are you most excited about?"

"My Rebbe."


I had heard a little bit about this Rebbe. He had some issues with discipline, and he was incredibly boring. He had a wonderful Rebbe this past year, and I was concerned about the transition.

Apparently, my little boy had none of those reservations.

"He gives out fake dollars when you know the Gemara, and you can buy seforim with them. He's such a good Rebbe."

"Oh…good!" Maybe this would work out better than I'd anticipated.

"He hurts."

He hurts. There it was again…that same matter-of-fact tone of voice. As though this is an expected component to growing up and going to school.

I've come a long way since the blood on the shirt incident. I'm not that young, meek mother I was back then. No one has the right to lay a hand on my kid. No one hurts my son.

I will protect my little boy.

To my little boy's Rebbe:

Look at my son in the classroom when you teach him. Look into his eyes and see how hard he tries…how eager he is to please. See how your disappointment in him…your frustration…reaches into his soul and breaks his heart. See how it hardens into the foundation of his character.

I see it. I see it all. And I am angry every time I watch his self esteem crumbling.

Do you know how sweet he is…my son?

If you looked into his eyes, would you hurt him? If you loved him, would you?

Is it worth a life? A future?

I don't ask you to love my son as I do. But please….look into his eyes. While your expectations may not change, the way you respond to him might.

Take care of my little boy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I'd been reading blogs for a few years when I decided to start one of my own. And so, one morning, the first post went up. It was a strange sensation to write, and then click on that orange button that said, "Publish Post". With that click, I was putting my thoughts out to the world. I was giving permission for people to peek into my brain and read my diary. I had no particular desire for anyone to know it was coming from me, and why should they care, anyway? I'm just.....me. I'm not a writer. I'm not well known. I'm just a woman who likes getting stuff off her chest.

I checked my blog later in the day, and noticed that three people had commented. I sat there, utterly amazed. Three people read my blog! The next day, there were a few more. It was a good feeling.

We've all been there, us bloggers. We know that feeling of watching a blog grow and how good it feels to have someone pay attention.

I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do. They like the idea of a place where a record of our existence is kept - a house with an always open door, where people can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think. Sometimes that house is messy. In real life, we wouldn't invite any passing strangers into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem ok.

There are no deep secrets revealed in my blog. But because the house is sometimes messy, I'm not comfortable with a real-life person coming inside. Being a nameless mystery feels safe...there is a security to being anonymous, and I did not want to give that up.

Apparently, I wasn't as anonymous as I believed.

I broke what is probably the number one rule of anonymous blogging - change the details. There are a wealth of details you can modify in a story without losing the essence of it, and I probably should have taken those liberties. I didn't. Someone read a post, and guessed who I am.

For one fleeting moment, I thought about closing my blog. I won't do that. But something does change when you become a real person, rather than an anonymous web site. In my real life, I choose which parts of me I want to put on display. I make sure the house is neat and clean before I invite anyone in. I worry about what people think.

As long as my blog was anonymous, I didn't have to do that. I didn't worry that people's perceptions will change based on something they read. I didn't worry about being judged based on my beliefs, my style, my perspectives, or any of a hundred other things that people judge.

I now have a couple of options. Stop caring about what other people think or discontinue the unfiltered honesty.

I won't do either. I'm going to keep blogging. Anonymously. And it may be more difficult to be as open as I'd like, but I still want the freedom to share my thoughts...to have a place where I am always allowed to write about how I feel without sweeping up first.

To my identifier: Thank you for respecting my privacy. Thank you for not judging me based on things you read on my blog...for not predicating your opinion of me on my messy house.

To everyone else, I will remain,

Yours always,

Mystery Woman