Bar Mitzvah Boy

DHW_Party_Share-5On the Gregorian calendar tomorrow is my youngest son’s thirteenth birthday.

Three weeks ago according to the Hebrew calendar my son became a man but two days after becoming a man he returned to seventh grade and took up largely where he left off. At dinner last week to a chorus of groans he announced that we should reinstitute family game night. Two nights ago he announced that he was quitting piano. And, last night he wandered the house looking for a willing victim for some card trick he was attempting to learn as I tried without success to work my own magic by disappearing beneath an avalanche of covers. It’s not really fair to him.  I know that but I’m fifty and I’m done with unilateral pronouncements, board games and card tricks.

I had to chuckle as David rose to lead us in prayer on the day of his bar mitzvah.  The cantor pulled out a stool for him to stand on so that he could reach the lectern.  I kept thinking about the phrase from Isaiah,  “…and a little child shall lead them.”  I have no idea what the theological underpinnings of that phrase are but nonetheless it kept rolling around in my brain. And there is wisdom in the old customs because within the child who rose to lead his congregation that day I saw a glimpse of the man he will, God willing, someday become, not today, not tomorrow but someday. Through all the lessons and the practicing and the run-throughs I worried because your baby is always your baby and you wonder what they are really made of. And, then on that day for a moment you see something that you’ve never seen before. You see potential and maturity and the ability to rise to the occasion.

And last night as I gazed upon his baby soft, whiskerless face I knew that these days of high voices and smooth faces are fleeting and we are on the cusp of something big.  Before the bar mitzvah album is complete he will morph into something between a boy and a man, awkward and incomplete but on a trajectory toward manhood that cannot be stopped.

And so, I pull the covers off my head, beckon him and pull a card from the deck he holds in fanned out fashion.

Happy Birthday my beautiful bar mitzvah boy.

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If I Had To Do It Over Again I’d Be Less of A Jerk

get-attachment-8.aspxIf I had to parent my oldest son over again I’d be less of a jerk.

We were working on the all important photo montage for my youngest son’s bar mitzvah and in the process we looked at hundreds of baby pictures and in still life we look like the model family. There is so much cuteness there that it’s hard to winnow the pile of photos down to the requisite hundred images needed for the montage. And then another thought occurs to us; perhaps we should include a few minutes of video footage in the montage. So we decide to watch some video footage of my youngest son’s circumcision ceremony/party.

At the very end of the footage there is what appears to be a very short addendum in which the venue has changed, the party has ended and we are home. The infant child is cradled in my arms feeding and my nine-year old son is in his Hannah Anderson cotton matching PJs. If we had a still picture of this, I would have melted, smiled knowingly and pronounced it to be, “precious.” But, unfortunately this is the age of video. My husband’s disembodied voice can be heard in the background asking, “Andrew what did you think of your brother’s “bris?”  “I don’t know” the child replies in a whiny, reedy voice. My husband can be heard groaning disappointedly on the sound track while I launch into a diatribe on the order of, “Answer daddy, speak up, ‘I don’t know’ is your answer to everything, tell us what you thought of the bris,” blah, blah, blah. I silently implore my video image to stop haranguing that poor, clearly exhausted child.

And then it strikes me; we were such jerks. What did we want from this child who with the clarity of thirteen years of hindsight and several years’ worth of sleep filled nights looks almost as much like a baby as his eight-day old brother. But at the time with a three-year old and an infant we looked to the nine-year old as if he would shortly be donning a business suit and going off to work.

I’m actually surprised we didn’t ask him to write a dissertation about his brother’s “bris.” So, MARK MY WORDS younger parents and mark them well, when your infant arrives that does not make your older child older than he actually is. Don’t fall into that trap because someday you might just watch some video footage of yourself and wish for a do over.

And to my oldest son, please accept my sincere apology. If we screwed you up, it was wholly unintentional. In my defense, birth order is destiny. Now get over it. By the way what do you think of David’s bar mitzvah speech? And, let me just put it out there, “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. I’ll be expecting some lucid, non-whiny commentary by this evening.

And So It Begins….

And so it begins, for the third and final time.

Today was my youngest son’s first tutorial for his bar mitzvah. As I wait for him to finish his lesson, I ponder the ways in which it is all so different this third time around. When my oldest son began his bar mitzvah lessons we marked the date of his first lesson on a large paper calendar as if it was some sacrosanct event. In contrast, a half an hour ago my iPhone startled me a bit as an alarm went off reminding me that D had a bar mitzvah lesson. Without that reminder and a nudge from the child himself, this lesson might have been forgotten. And, isn’t that just the way it’s always gone for my sweet, delicious third son.

When I was pregnant with my second child I worried that I wouldn’t be able to love another child as intensely as I loved the first. It turned out that my worry was unwarranted. Each son, in his turn, captured my heart fully and completely. I love each of them with the kind of love that would gladly coopt their pain as my own, and although the depth of my love is no different, I am a different parent to my third child than I was to my first.

The oldest son, of course, got all of the firsts, which has been both his blessing and his burden. I can sense that burden in the seriousness of his character and in the way he worries about all of us. The middle son, with his big personality, divined early on that as neither oldest, nor youngest he needed to declare himself. And, so he has. Loudly.  He has always demanded our attention and we are not likely to forget that he’s in the room. My littlest man is a quiet diplomat who has a gentle soul.  He doesn’t demand attention, or carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, and sometimes I’m afraid he gets a little lost in the shuffle.

His parents are older, wearier, more likely to let things slide but we are also wiser and more weathered. Although, of course, I knew the first time around that a thirteen year old was not a man I truly didn’t realize how long it would take for that chrysalis to turn into a butterfly. I didn’t know that the years before a man emerged from a boy would be filled with such joy, such angst and so much agonizing push/pull. I didn’t know that I was capable of holding my breath for four hours while my son drove to college by himself the first time. And, I didn’t understand that even when they largely resemble men, complete with facial hair and deep voices, inside they are still little boys.

And this is what I think as I sit here listening to the sweet murmur of my baby’s voice. But, I also think that today is a beginning of sorts and a day worthy of blessing and I silently whisper, “Blessed are you God who has preserved me, sustained me and allowed me to arrive at this day and help me God to find the wisdom, patience and fortitude to love and guide this child according to his unique talents and abilities.”

And so it begins, for the third and final time.