Though usually this series is for readers asking my unprofessional and unlicensed opinion as a dad, today’s episode is a strange exception. I will simply be responding to a good question asked by a reader of Dadvice #4: Would You Recommend Using A Midwife? when he left this comment:
“You chose to have ‘a natural as possible delivery’ but still chose to circumcise your son? There’s NOTHING natural about a circumcision…where’s the disconnect?”
You’re right. For a guy who is so self-proclaimed “natural” when it comes to medicine and food and lifestyle in general, it appears to be a double standard that I would force circumcision upon my son who was incapable of making that decision himself.
So how is circumcision natural? It’s not.
And that’s the whole point: Circumcision is not natural.
I do believe in the hype and subscribe to the dogma that circumcision is “cleaner” and prevents urinary track infections and all that good stuff that has not necessarily been clearly proven. I’m aware of all the arguments for and against circumcision: I read them all on Wikipedia today.
But for me, my support of circumcision is a personal one: It has to do with Biblical teachings. As I’m sure you know, circumcision goes back to a covenant between God and Abraham; a commandment for the Jews. From there, it also has become popular among Muslims and Christians.
In particular though, why would a Christian Gentile such as myself observe a commandment so blatantly Jewish? Why pick and choose certain parts of the Jewish law to observe when the Apostle Paul in the New Testament made it pretty clear that Christians do not have to eat kosher food or become circumcised?
With me being Mr. Natural and all, I pay special attention to the Old Testament concerning random commandments God gave to the Jews; because sometimes though not specifically mentioned, it has something to do with health.
He instructed them not to eat pork and shellfish; which are extremely low on the food chain.
God didn’t point out the fact that that eating pork would be the leading cause of people getting intestinal parasites, but it is. Why are so many people allergic to shellfish? Because they are the bottom feeders of the ocean; they are slightly toxic.
Why did God tell His people not to eat milk products with beef? Because, as a Jewish man from Israel explained it to me one time, eating the two together in the same meal slows down digestion and promotes constipation.
So two and a half years ago, I converted to a kosher diet. (That eventually led me to become a vegetarian.)
Similarly, I believe circumcision is like that. God didn’t make this commandment for His people in the name of health; but ultimately I think that has a lot to do with it.
Back to my point at the beginning, circumcision is not natural. Instead, it’s man’s recognition of God’s instruction and intervention.
And I think that concept has everything to do with faith in God: As a believer, I am constantly having to make a conscious decision to go against my own selfish desires; like choosing to love my neighbor as myself.
That is not natural.
Sure, ultimately I try to be as natural as I can. Unless I feel that there’s something health-wise I can learn by observing God’s random commandments with the Jewish people; though as a Christian, it’s not necessary I do so.
Get used to seeing my son Jack in this suave, retro blazer, paired with a pumpkin-accented plaid shirt because as his dad, I’m going to get as many miles out of this outfit as I can while it still fits him.
This weekend we decided to dress him in my old jacket and shirt from when I was literally his age.
From a walk in the park to lunch at Kalamata’s Greek restaurant to a quick visit to the pet store, Jack was rockin’ the jazzy new-wave wardrobe.
Like most parents of toddlers, I am not willing to spend much money on clothes that my kid will grow out of in a few months from now.
But being that Jack’s jacket and shirt were free, because they were a gift for me three decades ago, he gets to be a baby fashion model for the time being.
In the Spring of 1981, right before I was born, my Italian great-aunt Margaret Metallo in Kenosha, Wisconsin sent my mom a yellow blazer with a “matching” shirt from Sears as a gift for her soon-to-be born bambino, Mario Eugene Shell.
Yeah, uh… that’s me. However, after I was born, my parents recognized that despite my mother being half Italian and half Mexican, I looked ”too white” to have such an ethnic name as Mario.
So nearly 2 hours after I was born, my parents officially gave me my name: Nicholas Shane Shell.
By the time I reached adulthood, my features got darker and I finally looked more like a Mario. Though honestly, I probably look more Jewish than anything.
And now I’ve got a son who’s even whiter than I ever was: Yellow hair to match the jacket and marble blue eyes to compliment it. Honestly, Jack pulls off the yellow blazer better than I ever could.
I think it’s safe to say that jacket came before it’s time: Ultimately, it would be another 30 years for the perfect little bambino to come along to legitimately model it for the world.
It’s amazing how much I don’t care about celebrities, yet I can tell you that Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, that Russell Brand is 6′ 1″, that John Mayer is half Jewish, and that Beyonce is from Texas.
I don’t want to know how many girls Ashton Kutcher cheated on Demi Moore with or who Jennifer Aniston is currently dating.
Yet by proximity, I sort of do know these things because I am somehow constantly in the Thirty Mile Zone, exposed to the essence of all this useless knowledge about famous people.
We all know that school teachers are some of the hardest working people in America, yet their earned income doesn’t support this concept. Meanwhile, the sports stars, actors, and artists we worship get paid by the millions.
The irony here is that while our government is ultimately responsible for paying our school teachers so relatively little, we as a society decide that athletes, actors, and musicians are worth the money they earn when we pay to be entertained by them.
I would love to believe I honestly don’t get all caught up in celebrity hype. Yet I think back to a few years ago when I happened to be at Whole Foods while Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman were having lunch there.
Where was I? Along with others who were trying to inconspicuously take a picture of them with their cell phones. But the picture was “for my wife.” She’s a big Country music fan…
That event showed me that I was still willing to contribute to the habit of A) worshipping famous people and B) degrading them to spectacles, rather than just another married couple that happened to be eating lunch that day in an organic grocery store.
I’m not okay with worshipping rich and famous people.
Instead, I want to sincerely honor, both inwardly and outwardly, the people in the world who are great examples to us all. Not the people who have become millionaires by entertaining the world, but instead, the people who best demonstrate what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
As a dad, I want my son to see that it’s the non-famous people in our lives who are most important.
It’s the people who don’t simply entertain us, but the ones who also motivate us and challenge us to become better human beings. The ones who give us direction. The ones who love us unconditionally. The ones we can never truly impress or disappoint.
Sounds like right now I’m describing the way I feel about my son. I am, actually.
For the past couple of years now, I have consistently published my own recaps of The Bachelor, drawing in tens of thousands of views on my personal blog site, NickShell.com.
It made me laugh that I could make 300 people a day stumble upon my site when they Googled “Is Ali Fedotowsky Jewish?” Not only blogging about the show, but watching it every Monday night with my wife, had become a fun tradition.
This week, the new Bachelor season premiered featuring Ben Flajnik, the Slovak-Italian-German-English (but not Jewish) winemaker from California.
But the magic just wasn’t there for me anymore. Unlike previous seasons, it felt like the main focus was just on how ridiculous (and pathetic) the contestants could appear to be. It was like the show had merged with its sleazy cousin, Bachelor Pad, and all those trashy reality dating shows on VH1.
I guess I’m becoming more morally convicted about contributing to the exploitation of other people; even if they don’t realize or don’t care that the world is laughing at them, not with them.
A switch has flipped in my head. Is it because The Bachelor has (just now?) finally jumped the shark?
Not actually. My sudden disgust in The Bachelor got me thinking deeper. I realized that the underlying issue here is that I’m starved for redeeming value, not only in entertainment, but in real life.
I started thinking about the TV shows my wife and I have plowed through this past year on Netlflix. (We don’t have cable. We watched this week’s Bachelor episode online.)
They included Big Love, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. In my opinion, all three are very well-written, well-directed, fresh, original, and premium quality entertainment. But just yesterday I realized something they all three have in common:
The protagonist cheats on his wife, she cheats on him, or they cheat on each other.
It made me start thinking about all the good songs we love to sing along to which are about someone getting cheated on. Yeah, good songs like “White Liar” by Miranda Lambert or “You Lie” by The Band Perry. In every genre of music, it’s common for enjoyable songs to be about infidelity.
I may sound like a Republican grandma from the Eighties, but I’m really tired of all this negativity in pop culture; especially when it comes to the way marriage is portrayed.
The truth is, I’m struggling right now to think of a good modern TV series that features a happily married couple who aren’t constantly (even though comically) cutting each other down. I miss Jason and Maggie Seaver from Growing Pains.
Here on The Dadabase, I have written several times about how dads are negatively portrayed on TV. But I failed to focus also on how negatively marriage is portrayed, as well. That’s just as big of a deal.
I miss the cheesy “musical moral moments” at the end of Miller-Boyett sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step, and Perfect Strangers where I was always fed a bite-size life lesson, teaching me to care more about others than myself.
Starting now, I am going to be deliberately seeking out entertainment (and real-life ventures) that have a high redeeming quality.
As part of her Christmas present to me, my wife agreed to watch the first season of Lost with me. She’s never seen it, but I’ve seen every episode.
Lost is the kind of thing I mean when I say “redeeming quality.” I love to see the moral struggles of the characters as they try to forgive others and themselves for the wrongs they have committed in their lives. I love that they ultimately become accountable for their actions.
I love to see a story actually go somewhere. I love to see people redeemed, not exploited.
It’s interesting how a human being who can not yet speak a complete phrase can have a personality. My son Jack demonstrates his to me everyday. I’m so used to being around him, that it can be difficult sometimes to even pinpoint what exactly makes him so darn funny, in my eyes.
1. He has the hairstyle of a German beat poet from the 1950′s. I’m not sure if that even makes sense, but I think it has something to do with a rerun of Happy Days I saw in high school. After blowing $12 on a hair cut for him a few months ago, my wife and I recently attempted to touch it up ourselves. The result: a boy who, if he could speak intelligible phrases, would definitely speak with a thick German accent and wear a black turtleneck. Or if nothing else, his hairstyle reminds me of classic Paul Simon, as part of the Jewish folk duo, Simon and Garfunkel.
2. He gets delirious right before bed time. It’s a perfect mix of unbridled excitement and insanity. Jack gets this really crazed look in his eyes that almost freaks me out. There was this one time recently when I was lying down watching him play with his wooden toy hammer, and all of the sudden he appeared over me, raising the weapon above his head, as if to say, “Hello Father, I will murder you now!”
3. He feels the need to instantly and furiously destroy any food he has finished eating. Instead of just pushing away his Cheerios, he waves his arms across the surface of his high chair table, sending bits of cereal flying into the air. His philosophy is evidently, “Utterly annihilate all leftover morsels!” A bit unnecessary if you ask me.
4. He loves to “do Home Alone.” Any time Jack sees someone place their hands on the sides of their face, he recognizes it as “Home Alone,” and does the action himself. Sometimes he even says “ehhh” as to portray Macaulay Culkin, though Jack has no idea why he’s supposed to “do Home Alone.” In his mind, he assumes that’s just what normal people do everyday.
I admit, I don’t know what “normal” 13 month-old toddlers are like. Jack is the only kid I’ve got. But I’m curious to know if anyone else’s toddler does anything like these 4 quirky actions I’ve mentioned today. So yeah, tell me what makes your kid weird, in a good way.