An open letter to my son: I’m sorry for circumcising you

This letter originally appeared at The Purple Mama on October 13, 2013.

My sweet Buddy,

First of all, I love you and I’m so very proud of you. And I’m incredibly grateful for our family. You and  your sister make me burst with happy laughter every day. (Sometimes I pee a little. Look, I’ve had two kids, ok? You’ll understand eventually.)

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Chances are that when you read this, most of your friends and peers at Jewish school are circumcised, you’ve never had a problem with it, and you’re perfectly happy (G-d willing.) But now that you’re old enough to know about intact vs. circumcised, and if you feel wronged or violated in any way, there’s something I have to tell you. (And no more jokes for this part.)

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I let my religious upbringing override my mommy instinct. I’m sorry that I didn’t give you a choice. I wanted to make sure you feel like you belong instead of feeling different the way I did growing up.

What I know now, though, is that different is not such a bad thing. And belonging isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It took me over thirty years to finally and truly love myself, and I hope and pray it doesn’t take you (and your sister) half as long. Because if I had fully embraced my true belief system earlier, I would have fought tooth and nail to leave you intact. To let you decide if you want to follow in some of your male ancestors’ footsteps, whatever the reason. Every part of you was perfect when you were born, and every part of you still is. I just wish I hadn’t decided to remove part of you without your consent.

Your bris was a beautiful and moving ceremony, and I’m glad we had it. But if I could talk to the pre-bris me struggling with this decision, I’d remind myself how often I tell mothers to ignore others and listen to their inner voice.

I’d remind myself how much research I do on anything that impacts my family. (I wish I had known about the Brit Shalom ceremony.)

I’d remind myself that we (and many other Jewish families) don’t keep kosher, or strictly observe Sabbath. That we pick and choose from biblical directives based on myriad factors. So why choose to continue this one?

I have no good answer. Only the real one: this is how we’ve always done it. Which is a phrase that always made me shudder when I was the Aviation Safety Officer for my squadron. That phrase rarely leads to good things.

Please forgive me, wonderful son of mine. Or if there’s nothing to forgive, just come give me a hug. Or call me, because I always love hearing your voice.

I love you and your sister to the moon and back, to the infinity power. You two and your father are my everything, and always will be.

Your eternally devoted and fiercely loving Mamabear