I write to my daughter everyday, and have done so since we first found out that Elysha was pregnant. I post everything alongside photos and videos on a blog that she will be able to read someday. Today I wrote a something that I thought I would share here.
It’s the kind of post that makes me wonder what the hell the 28-year old version of my daughter will someday think. ______________________________________
I just sneezed, little one.
You said, “Daddy, bless you.”
First time I ever heard you say this.
Of course, I have a small problem with the whole "Bless you" formality, and while I am more than willing to teach you to say it as a matter of social convention, I hope to someday have a more intellectual discussion with you on the matter of offering blessings to those who you presume to possess spiritual or supernatural beliefs.
I almost never say "Bless you," replacing this nicety with a different but equally kind compliment.
For example, my students sneezes.
Not wanting to presume that my student possesses an applicable belief system, I say something like, “I loved your effort today” or “You answered those fraction problems brilliantly.”
A friend sneezes.
I say something like, “I’d say 'Bless you' but I don’t know if you believe in God or the superstitious origins behind the 'Bless you,' and who am I to offer a blessing anyway? I’m hardly qualified for such a thing. So I’ll just tell you that you that I think that tee shot on the fourth hole was great and leave it at that.”
Saying "Bless you" will probably not offend a single person in the whole entire world, little one, but it still seems wrong to me, and therefore I avoid it whenever possible. You may not choose to institute my "Bless you" ban when you get older, but what I’d at least like for you to learn is tolerance for the nonconformist.
Mommy, for example, has no problem with saying “Bless you” even though she understands my intellectual argument against it. For her, and for most people (and perhaps all people), it is not something worth her time. "Bless you" is a nice thing to say when someone sneezes, and to say something like, “Sorry, I don’t say 'Bless you' but that’s a great pair of shoes you’re wearing!” admittedly runs the risk of making you look like a lunatic.
Daddy is willing to run that risk. Most reasonable people are not.
But Mommy does not scoff at my position. She does not deride it or attempt to change it. She does not think less of me because of it. She accepts me and my idiosyncrasies (and intellectual acuity), and I love her for it.
This is why Mommy had a friend named Chainsaw in high school. This is why Mommy has more friends than just about anyone I know, even though she can be miserable with correspondence. She does not enjoy talking on the phone, rarely listens to voice mails, never listens to messages on the answering machine, yet everyone still loves her. She’s willing to accept just about everyone. Even your occasionally crazy Daddy. Nanni and Gramps laugh at the wide variety of friends who Mommy brought home for dinner over the years, and it’s one of the reasons I love her so much.
Her acceptance for all people and the friendship and love that she receives in return is a blessing in our lives that you must never underestimate.
So I’m hoping that someday you might join the "Bless you" ban, maybe just so that I don’t have to stand alone anymore, but also because I think it’s a valid and reasonable position to hold. I’d sincerely like to replace "Bless you" with a more meaningful and appropriate response, and though it’s unlikely to happen, every movement begins with one person.
I am currently in a movement of one. Maybe someday you will double that number.
But if you are willing to accept me as Mommy has, that will be good enough.
Or perhaps you could simply use the alternative to "Bless you," which is "Gesundheit," a German and Yiddish word for Health.
Nothing wrong with wishing someone health regardless of their religious or spiritual belief.
I don’t use "Gesundeit" unless I am in a hurry or dealing with a complete stranger.
It’s not as fun as offering a random compliment and opening the door to a little proselytizing.