May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Disclaimer: I know that kids sometimes read my columns, and I love that they do, but this week’s column is for adults only. If you’re a kid, this is not for you.

Ok, this isn’t going to work. The kids are specifically reading it now. But what am I supposed to do?

Let’s try this:

Warning: You kids out there wouldn’t be interested in this topic. It’s all about mortgages and investments and boring adult things you don’t want to hear about.

Okay, now that the kids are gone, I should tell you that this column isn’t really about mortgages and investments. I don’t know about those things, because I always left the room when my parents discussed them. But what I do know is that it’s impossible to have a private conversation with your spouse out of earshot of your kids. These kids are everywhere. Where do they keep coming from? They weren’t here when we got married.

But important things come up, and you don’t necessarily want the kids around for those discussions. For example, you could be talking about possibilities of plans for the future, and you don’t want them to think that every possibility you mention is definitely going to happen.

And it’s increasingly harder to find times of the day you can do this as your kids get older, and neither of you is awake enough to have these discussions at those times, but you’re like, “There are no kids around; let’s do this.” At three in the morning.

“Wake up. We have to talk about Chanukah presents.”

Then you can have a groggy conversation that neither of you will remember. And during which the two of you take turns falling asleep while the other one is talking.

But some conversations can’t wait until the next day. (“Okay, everyone, nap time.”) So a lot of parents have their discussions right in front of the kids, but they do it in Yiddish.

What to the goyim do? Maybe that’s why they don’t have so many kids.

But my wife and I don’t really have a common language like that. My Yiddish hasn’t progressed beyond second-grade level, and it’s mostly words you would find in a Chumash up to about halfway through Parshat Lech Lecha. And my wife went to school in Massachusetts, so she was taught French. (A lot of schools up north learn French as a second language, in case the Canadians take over.)

So we can’t very well have a conversation where I speak second-grade Yiddish at her and she speaks high-school French at me. That’s gonna be productive.

Though it’s not like French is useless. She’s a huge help when I’m learning Rashis.

But she never learned Yiddish. In fact, on Simchat Torah, on the way home from shul, my wife asked me what “tzu vemen and tzu vemen” means.

“It’s not in my siddur,” she said.

So I told her that “tzu vemen” is “two women.” Tzu vemen and tzu vemen = four vemen.

Recently, her Yiddish has been improving, though, because she started working for chasidim. So I bought her a picture book that is designed to teach Yiddish to little kids. My wife pored over the book, and she now knows a bunch of Yiddish words that chasidim don’t even use, because whenever they get up to the crucial part of a sentence, they just stick in English. For example, one day her boss’ husband ordered “Tzvai box cookies.”

He then turned to my wife: “Do you know what that means?” (He occasionally speaks tzu vemen.)

And she did. So my book was money well spent. Point is, I don’t know that speaking modern Yiddish in front of the kids would be that helpful. (“Zul mir koifen zei cookies?”) Also, they’ve been reading the Yiddish book.

Sure, you could say, “Get out; We want to talk.” I tried that. Nothing makes your kids want to stand there more than if you tell them you’re about to talk. To kids, it’s like listening to the news. It’s not like there’s an official news report for your household. It’s not like every night at 6:00, one of your siblings gets up and starts saying the news.

“Officials are still looking into who drew on the wall in peanut butter… In other news today, no one is getting candy tomorrow due to border disputes in the backseat. And now for traffic and weather: Totty refuses to turn up the heat, and there are a lot of delays predicted for the bathroom on Friday afternoon, so make plans to avoid it. Now here’s Chaim with sports.”

Sure, you can go into your room and lock the door, but then the kids know you’re talking about them, and when you open the door, they all fall into the room, ear first. They also keep knocking for stupid questions.

“Can I take a carrot?”

“You could always take a carrot.”

Knock-knock.

“Which carrot should I take?”

I want to discuss whether we should do something nice for the kids, but it’s such a pain to get them to leave that I no longer have any interest. I’m thinking of making up some kind of awesome thing the kids want that I can just pull out and tell my wife that we’re not doing whenever I hear them eavesdropping, to discourage them for the future.

“They’re eavesdropping on our conversation. I guess we shouldn’t get that trampoline we were going to talk about!”

“How do you know they’re eavesdropping?”

“I hear someone chewing carrots.”

Maybe that’s an idea! Give your kids something really noisy to eat right before you start your discussions—carrots, pickles, apples, Cap’n Crunch, celery or Amish pretzels. That’s how the Amish do it.

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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