In the midst of rejoicing with family and friends last June at my nephew’s Bar-Mitzvah, I had a stunning realization: Rafi is the youngest of my brother Josh’s three children. According to tradition, there is a certain dance we do to honor a couple at the wedding of their youngest child, the Mezainka. Josh and his wife, Diane, are klezmer musicians and avid students of Yiddish culture, so naturally they appropriated this ritual to the bar-mitzvah rather than waiting for the wedding. Who says you can’t do both? As we danced around the two of them, it occurred to me with overwhelming force that my kids aren’t babies anymore! Come to think of it, they haven’t been babies for some time now. This dance of actively, day-to-day, raising our children under our own roof lasts only for so long. Two years from now it will be my daughter’s bat mitzvah and we’ll have finished the birth through b’nai mitzvah portion of our parenting “career,” just like my brother and sister-in-law have.
A few months have passed. My sister, Brooke, and her husband, Jonathan, have brought Leo, the first of their three boys, to the Torah and Emanuelle is now next. This month, Zachariah, our firstborn, turns 15. Fifteen! For heaven’s sake! If he’s 15, I can’t pass myself off as 21 much longer. I like to tease my kids that Zach is a belated birthday gift and Emmy (June birthday) is an early Father’s Day present. This month that marks the 15th anniversary of Zachariah’s birthday is also the 15th anniversary of our role as parents.
Parenting teaches, tests, humbles, enriches, excites, and exhausts us like nothing else. Nothing has been as fun, frustrating, and fulfilling than this.
Zachariah, life with you is an adventure. When we say the blessing over our children each Shabbat, we finish it with an addendum from Marcia Falk. “Be who you are. And may you be blessed in all that you are.” It’s like the Hebrew song that you and Emmy learned at school, Ani Ne’Shar Ani, “I’m Always Me.” Delightful or difficult, sonorous or silent, playful or provocative, adventurous or anxious, you are always you. I can’t imagine it any other way. I’ll try harder to remember that your “blessings” are a blessing no matter how you’re behaving. “Be who you are. And May You Be Blessed in ALL that you are.”