My family and I recently attended two bar mitzvahs in one week (we were popular).
For those of you reading this who don’t know, a bar mitzvah is when a boy comes of age at 13 years old and is recognized by Jewish tradition as having the same rights as a full grown man. A boy who has become a “bar mitzvah” is now morally and ethically responsible for his decisions and actions.
How a 13 year old can assume responsibility for his own moral and ethical decisions and actions is beyond me but that is a whole other subject for a whole other blog posting. Note to self….
I sat watching the “bar mitzvah boys” do their thing; wearing fancy duds and dressed up all adult-like, reading and praying hebrew from the Torah and delivering to those in attendance, a heart-felt speech thanking everyone for attending their special day and telling the guests how excited they were to enter the club of manhood.
Excited to become a man and enter adulthood…a bit of a theme, I think.
I too, very many years ago, was “bar mitzvahed”. It was Rememberance Day, November 11, 1978 when I supposedly became an adult and a man…sometimes these two words are not mutually exclusive (depending on who you ask).
I remember how I felt that day. I remember my new, custom-tailored corduroy suit that my great uncle (a tailor) made specially for me. My hair perfectly coiffed (my mother gave me a hair net to wear to sleep the night before so as to not mess up my “do”). I remember freaking out not to screw up my Torah portion or speech I had to give to all the people who came to celebrate this special day with me and my family. I remember having thoughts about how my life would change once I became a man and a full-fledged adult.
It was going to be great.
Not once did I think about the life I was leaving behind as I exited my adolescent years – heading into the teenage/manhood “I’m an adult…look at me” years.
If I could go back as my 47 year old self and have a conversation with my newly-minted 13 year old self, I would tell him to run for the hills!!
Aside from being able to drive, drink, (not at the same time of course) and have the ability to make money to buy shit (without asking my parents for allowance or permission), is being grown up really all that great?
If I had to make a list of the pros and cons of being a kid versus being a grown up, I can almost guarantee that being a kid is way better.
Think about it.
You don’t have to foot the bill for anything; no need for a job, your meals are lovingly made for you; you get to wear cooler clothes; you get to wear cooler sneakers; you get to play outside; you get to each junk food without worrying about high cholesterol, blood pressure, heart attack. You get to ride a cool bike; go skate boarding; have no fear of making a fool of yourself because your too young to know better. You get to listen to cool music, watch goofy shows, sneak into R-rated movies (for me, it was the Bo Derek movie, “10”).
The list is endless.
The bad part is, kids don’t realize how great they have it being a kid until they become an adult. I long for the days of my youth. Sure, my childhood was not always the best on earth; I too, had bullies to contend with, dreaded math to deal with and a fear of talking to girls to overcome. But beyond that, being a kid was pretty awesome.
Somewhere, however, along the line, I had to start assuming responsibility for my actions. I had to go out and get a job to pay for my bills, I started worrying about my health, I wasn’t as physically fit as I was when I was a kid and the worst part was (and is), I couldn’t behave like a kid because adults aren’t supposed to. Adults are supposed to act like adults…whatever the hell that means.
I don’t particularly love being a grown up. I hate all the aches and pains that come along with it. I hate the financial burden and I really hate not being able to act like a kid. Being mature isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.
When I heard these boys speak about how excited they were about becoming men, I wanted to tell them…”dude, enjoy being a kid…what is the rush to become a man?” Besides, at 13…are they really men?
I wanted to tell them to savour each moment of their youth. I wanted to tell them to celebrate all that their young, healthy bodies can do for them…because one day their bodies will let them down. I wanted to tell them to enjoy being able to run freely without a care in the world. I wanted to tell them how free they are and how life, as they mature, might begin to feel heavy.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many parts of my life as a 47 year old that are absolutely amazing; the deep, intimate and rich love that I have for my wife of 21 years…the absolute awe that I have that comes from my two spectacular daughters. I also am mature enough and “enlightened” enough, to pause and recognize the beauty that surrounds me. I am thrilled and appreciative of my close friends and family and the freedom that I enjoy living in the country that I call home.
But, I have been yearning for a return to my youth, recently. Seeing these two boys at 13 took me back to that sunny Saturday morning in November when I became a man.