Found this in the “Draft” box from last fall. Didn’t realize how long I’d been on writing vacation.
In two very short weeks Little Pit will attend his first Bar Mitzvah celebration at a restaurant in D.C., without us. Friends, I am grateful for this–glad that he will experience something he would otherwise not have in a small town in Texas, glad to have a night out to go sit someplace and eat food someone else cooked and stare at my husband for a couple of hours, glad we can hop on the Metro just around the corner from our house and make it all happen, just glad all around. You know what’s next, right? A BIG GIANT “BUT!” On the invitation it states that there will be dinner and dancing. Dancing, perhaps, with girls. Oh no!
Why on earth would this kerfuffle me? My boy is a sweetheart. We are raising him to respect himself and respect women. There will be parents there. We want him to go be with his friends and have fun–it’s an absolute must for healthy development and healthy humans in general. So who cares?
It’s the lightning fast really slow process of me moving to the sidelines as he grows up, where I won’t be his best girl anymore. If we’re doing our part well, theoretically, we’ll gain a daughter at some point, but if I screw this up I might gain a reluctant & unpleasant Thanksgiving dinner guest who shows up every single year! And brings stuffing from a box! Or a pie that requires defrosting! What if he never calls? What if he is unhappy? Not just ordinary unhappy, but bone-deep unhappy? What if all the faith, love, creative energy, and wonder that David and I have poured into being Junior’s parents doesn’t work? So much of this is boiling just below the surface of everything these days that it doesn’t take much for it to bubble over.
I think people love babies so much because really, all you have to do is keep them alive and reasonably clean. I strapped MP into the baby carrier and stuck a diaper in my back pocket and kept moving. I was significantly more tired and much crankier when Matt was a baby, but now is the hard part (I know I’m skipping a giant swath of early childhood–also not easy and notable for the mind-numbing repetitive reading of Good Night, Fucking Moon). It’s where all the rote skills and rules, and “rules” we’ve taught him meet his developing humanity. Walking the line between teaching, modeling, commanding, and requiring he figure it out for himself is no small thing. We try to stay close to the “figure it out yourself+questions+feedback” model but that’s much easier said than done.
He described himself recently as “the happiest kid in the 7th grade.” It made me cry a little. How did this come about? Is it us? Is it his wiring? How do we NOT MESS THIS UP (because this is the fear we hold very lightly in our hands)? And, as an aside, what the hell? What kind of freak likes 7th grade? I am finding that parenting a pre-teen presents many more questions than parenting books and web-sites have answers (although Brave Parenting by Pozatek is pretty helpful).
So, back to the Bar Mitzvah. The blazer, dress pants, dress shirt, and new tie have all arrived, been tried on, ironed, and are hanging in the closet. Prayers are scattered to the Universe that they still fit for another friend’s spring Bar Mitzvah. His enormous feet fit into his dad’s dress shoes, so we got off cheap on that account. The present and card are ready to go, reminders about table manners have been randomly shouted at weird times, and we’ve practiced how to dance at a nice party, just in case.
When we googled “bar mitzvah” all the definitions we found came down to one thing–the time when a young person becomes accountable. As he gets closer to thirteen we see more flashes of the man our son is becoming. Rather than holding him accountable ourselves, increasingly we bear witness to him standing up and saying “This is me, and this is my deal,” as he holds himself accountable for the good things and the not so much things. It is humbling. It’s a reminder that we’ve got bigger fish to fry than new ties and dancing with ladies.
Shalom, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
He came home from the first bar mitzvah asking if we could please be Jewish instead of lapsed Episcopalians. He was sincerely disappointed at our explanation of how it works (or doesn’t).
The second bar mitzvah was notable for the extreme length of the service and he stopped asking about becoming Jewish. The blazer and pants still fit. Thankfully, small pants are still in style, because MP’s were questionable.
Both times he commented admiringly on how well his friends handled themselves during the service, and how long beforehand they had to prepare. And there was lots of food. Bless those parents for feeding a horde of twelve and thirteen year old boys!