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Mar 03

Bar Mitzvah

There are internal clocks that go off for me, when I find myself in a certain emotional place for no specific reason, until I look at a calendar and realize what’s happening.  For example, every February, April and July, I usually find myself going thru a week or two of massive baby-fever, where I really do regret not having more kids.  And it always takes me by surprise, because I never connect it to the kids’ birthdays until a week or two after the fact.  And as it turns out – I also apparently feel the need to start questioning everything spiritually around the time when my kids are 11-13.

We know we aren’t going to have a traditional bar mitzvah for Sam.  Even before the vision issues, even without the anxiety that would make a performance like Jessie’s incredibly challenging – this kid has some serious and significant issues with organized religion, with belief in God in general, and participation within in a religious community in specific.

But he’s still going to 13 before too long, and I find myself very aware of that.  Very aware that he’s going to responsible for himself, in an official sort of way, and that I need to prepare for that.  Even if I’m not following the same path I did with Jessie, with the meetings with the cantor and the reminding her to practice, and throwing myself into more involvement in the synagogue so that I’d set a good example for her – it’s still part of the process, of having an 11 year old son, of getting ready for him to be a man.

There’s something I cherish about the bat/bar mitzvah process, the idea that we take these kids, at the cusp of their adult life, and have this formal process of welcoming them to the club.  Of saying “you have a voice, and we’re going to listen to it.  You are a welcome part of this community, and a responsibility to stand up and be a part of it.”  Even though he’s not a particularly active member of the Jewish community, he is a part of MY community and he’s going to be adult.  I’m feeling this sense of urgency, like I need to hurry up and prepare him for… what?  Being fourteen?

Because the reality is, with Sam, he already has a voice.  I have changed the way I parent him, the way he relates with the world because he’s already been thru hell.  We listen to his voice.  I don’t force him to do anything – because I’ve already had to force him to do incredibly painful and scary things, and I’ll only do that now when it’s a life or death matter.  And I’ve learned that Sam, fundamentally, is able to do the hard things, and make the hard choices, when I step back and give him space to do so.

On a lot of levels, I already had to face everything about having him grow up because he’s matured in ways that the average 11 year old hasn’t.  He’s faced incredible pain, and the loss of everything he loved, and come thru the other side.

With Jessie, her bat mitzvah was this huge public thing.  We had hundreds of people at the service that day, and it was overwhelming for everyone.  It was a very public and emotional day.  She was beautiful and eloquent and amazing.  And everyone could see that.  People I didn’t even know were there, and they celebrated right along with us.

With Sam, I don’t know that we’ll do much of anything at the synagogue.  We might, but it might be a Thursday  morning, with just us.  His won’t be public and he won’t be eloquent.  I’ll be lucky if he’s standing up at the bima with us.  But it’s that same feeling of…. overwhelming love and pride and wistfulness, wishing I could get the time back, wishing that it would slow down.  Being so grateful for this child, in this place, at this time.

There’s something magical about this time in a parent’s life, when your child is not a child anymore.

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