It’s finally here: bar/bat mitzvah day! Today is about your child – as it should be. Your kid worked so hard – willingly, begrudgingly, neither or both; on Zoom or at Hebrew school, during day school or with a tutor they loved or loathed. Mazel tov, kiddo!
But this day is also about you, mama. Not about the dress you finally picked (after ordering and returning the entire inventory at Nordstrom). Not about how natural your balayage looks, or whether your arms look Pelotoned in pics, or if the favors you negotiated like mad turned out adorable (relax: the hoodies/pj pants/water bottles look great!). It’s not about the montage or the logo or the welcome bags you prepared for your in-laws at the hotel where you secured a group rate three years ago.
It’s about how far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown, in the last 13 years.
Thirteen-ish years ago, you brought your mitzvah kid into the world. Maybe your delivery was seamless, serene, completely according to the birth plan you mapped and printed out for your overnight bag. Maybe it was frantic, frightening, an emergency C-section that left you unable to hold your baby for hours after their birth. Maybe it involved a beautiful adoption or profound surrogacy or an alternately harrowing and heartwarming IVF journey. Maybe it involved a deep loss you carry with you always.
Whatever it was, you got through it; you grew from it. You’re not the same person you were all those years ago – you’re stronger now, aren’t you?
This mitzvah is about those baby years, about the judgment you felt or imposed upon yourself for breastfeeding or formula-feeding, for having a nanny or not. For working or staying home or juggling some mix of both. It’s about a love and nervousness so fierce, you thought your heart might explode in your chest. It’s about sleep deprivation so bewildering, even your friends who’d gone through a medical school residency couldn’t one-up you.
It’s about those early years that brought your partner closer, or pushed your partner away, the two of you taking your anxiety out on each other when, really, what you both craved was empathy, humor, praise. It’s about an era that opened your eyes to the power of fellow moms, other mother figures, the power of therapy, the power of medicine, the power of taking care of yourself, of what you lose and gain when you don’t.
This mitzvah is about the toddler years, when you started seeing the world through your kid’s widening lens and adventures. When your child got pigtails and their first haircut, left diapers behind, started a preschool that involved too many forms and too many childcare puzzles or too much money or time. It’s about those early parent-friends you met at drop-off or the car line or on the after-school playground, who may not be in your life now but whose company and comedy you still cherish. (Psst: Look them up online – say hello!)
It’s about elementary school: bus stops and cafeterias, report cards and book fairs. It’s about spirit days and teacher gifts and so many fundraisers. It’s about your kid asking questions that are hard to answer, beautiful and blunt: about race and money and climate, about fairness and justice and loss. It’s about all the lessons your kid has taught you, and the hope that this next generation will get right all the things your generation and your ancestors didn’t. (No pressure, kids.)
Today is about the expansion of your child’s world, and your own. The activities your kid opened your eyes to. The fleeting trends! The fleeting friends. The teams and classes and carpools and phases and the ever-changing technology that can be entirely too much. The strep and the sprains, the stresses big and small. The orthodontia! It’s about the way your kids got through the pandemic with more grace and resilience than most adults did. The way they’ve changed – their more prominent cheekbones, their longer limbs, those minds that work so fast, it’s hard to know what they’re thinking, but thrilling to know that they are. They’re processing who they are and want to be. They’re considering the world around them, where they fit in and how they’ll change it, and with whom. They’re so nice to their grandparents, who are as doting and devoted as ever. They’re judging you, of course – and that really is a good thing; it’s a sign that they’re growing, mama, and so are you. And so have you.
You look great, mitzvah mom. Your hair, your dress, the favors, the DJ, and the lengths you went to make your guests feel welcome. But today is not about how great anything looks: It’s about growth – how it propelled you to this moment, high up on your hora chair with more wisdom and clarity than 13-years-ago-you could’ve imagined or appreciated – and how much more growth lies ahead.
So mazel tov, mitzvah kiddos – and mazel tov to you, mamas. Long after your kid mails that last thank you note, may you and the world around both of you always continue to grow.