Going Barmy with the Barmitzvah

My eldest child is soon to be barmitzvahed. I am still in denial that I hit my thirties quite a while ago, so the idea that my oldest is going to be 13 has taken me by surprise. Talk about a kick in the posterior with a pointy shoe. Many shabbatot this past year have been spent attending barmitzvot of all his friends, and taking mental notes what I want at his barmitzvah and what I don’t want. Of course, then there is what he wants, and really, as a 12 year old with no money and experience and life skills to contribute to the endeavour, all he really needs to do is read his parshah and wear his suit and allow the elderly female relatives to kiss him and pinch his cheek. Obviously his mother won’t be kissing him because that would just be too majorly embarrassing. Euw, Ima……


He is to become a man. Now, isn’t that interesting phraseology.  Becoming a man. From one day to the next. He goes to sleep a boy and wakes up as a man. Halachically it may be so. He becomes responsible for his mitzvot and aveirot, and his father and I no longer have to suffer the spiritual consequences if he makes a wrong move. (not that he would, for of course he is the perfect child….). I have also been informed that once he has turned 13 he no longer HAS to listen to me. Trust me kid, if you want to be fed and clothed and nurtured and taken care of, and have a peaceful family life, and have access to batteries, you will remember who it is who does everything for you and you will listen to me, even though you don’t have to, geddit?!  So this man that he becomes – do 13 year old boys grow a responsibility gene overnight? Where is the microchip implanted? Can we do a pre-emptive implant in the others so that their prepubescent years won’t be so bad?  They become teenagers not men – there is a huge difference between the two.


13 and they know everything – and apparently it only gets worse! He wants to feel that he has some control over the whole barmitzvah process, and we all know that in reality he doesn’t. In a previous post I talked about the whole head covering thing. My son asked that for the barmitzvah I wear a sheitel. Initially I said “why don’t I wear a hat, a huge hat, with huge feathers, that will cover my hair – it serves the purpose” – but I guess that would be immodest of me, as in our shul that would draw tremendous attention. (not that that would necessarily be a bad thing) And, that would make it about me, not about the barmy boy and it would totally have embarrassed him (so tempted). So off I trotted and plunked down an obscene amount of money for a furry thing to wear on my head because it would make my son happy. He liked my choice. It happens to look good, btw, but I feel it could be a step back onto the slippery slope of head covering. Shock horror!


Cue the outfit. Now for you of the male species out there, you wear a suit, a shirt and a tie and you are done. If you want to go fancy you wear French cuffs with fancy cufflinks. Big whoop! No need to think of colour schemes, of matching shoes and purses, what kind of panty hose you have to wear with that skirt so none of your “topographical pregnancy souvenirs” show up to steal attention. I am flamboyant, I like to make statements with my mode of dress, I don’t fade into the background, and I very rarely dress conservatively. When I do my friends don’t recognize me. I like who I am and I make no apologies. So there! My son is almost 13. Everything I do has the potential to embarrass him. I have to remind myself that the BM is about him not me, so flamboyance and embarrassment are not really an option here BUT I don’t want to lose who I am in making my son happy. Luckily, being a woman, there are plenty of options available in fashion that bridge the gap between what he wants and what I want, tho thankfully neither of us wanted me to wear a burka. I found an outfit that pleases both of us. It would please G-d too, if I may presume. It covers everything it is supposed to cover, hides the stuff I want hidden, isn’t black, isn’t a sinful red, is classy and elegant, AND I can wear gold shoes with it (of course it’s about the shoes!! Duh!! I am woman, see my shoes).


The other kids are a hoot – “do we really have to wear monkey suits?” So I told them it was a choice between a suit and a dress and seeing as they are male people, they very wisely chose suits. I talked about colour coordinating the waistcoats in jewel tones – somehow I lost them. I don’t get it!


Its amazing how one milestone takes over everything. Most conversations these days around the dinner table have at least ten references to the barmitzvah. My barmitzvah note book is overflowing with lists and scraps of paper. Planning this thing is like a military operation. But at least there is no opposition to fight with – not like we are planning a wedding or anything!


I know that as soon as this BM is over, and all the wanted guests go home (and hopefully the unwanted ones too…) I cannot sit back on my laurels and have a self congratulatory love fest. Nope. See, when you have kids close in age, there is no rest. BM #2 is 13 months after #1. But son #2 is quite happy at not being first – “You can make all the planning mistakes with my brother, so by the time it’s my barmitzvah it will all be perfect”. Cannot fault his logic, now, can you? Makes me wonder what mistakes we have actually made in son #1s lifetime that gave #2 this insight……


Well, I guess the upside of this all is that the kid feels the centre of the universe for a moment in time, and the memories he has will last him a lifetime. They’d better, the amount of effort that’s going into this! Now where did I put my list of lists?

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