Monday, October 09, 2006

The Prodigal Returns. . .

It's been quite a long time since I blogged here last, and I'm sorry for that. The start of the school year brings a lot of stress to our lives and this year the level of insanity has been racheted up with P's upcoming Bar Mitzvah.

There was a time I wouldn't have believed this day would come. I am one *very* proud mom.

This is the speech I wrote for him.

"Things change and so will you."

When you were quite small--maybe only 4 or 5, I remember you picking out the words 'change is good' on a banner in our local gas station. They were advertising a special on oil changes. You considered it, thinking hard for a few minutes, and then turned to me with your eyes owl large in your thick glasses and said, "No mommy, they lie. Change isn't good."

And you were right. In those years, you struggled to negociate the confusing social world of school, when you needed your daily schedule to be completely predictable.

Once in preschool, you had a panic attack because your father had cut your sandwich into triangles instead of squares. This summer, you traveled through Greece for two weeks with a school group and learned to love gyros and eat eggplant.

I have watched you learn to navigate a landscape of endless change with humor and with grace.

I could stand here and list your accomplishments; academic excellence and straight honor roll grades, being cast as the lead in the school play, a brown belt in karate; but these things tell us what you have done, not who you are.

I am proud of the man you are becoming. You blend your father's gentleness with my curiosity into a personality that is uniquely your own. You are a mensch--even when--or especially when I ask you to do something you don't want to do, like babysit your younger brother instead of having a sleepover with your friends. And speaking of your brother, you are kind to him when you don't think anybody's looking. But don't worry, I'll keep that our little secret.

When it came time to designate a charity for a portion of your gifts, you didn't hesitate to name [local dog charity], the fostering organization we adopted [our dog] through. I am proud of the way you are passionate about ecology, conservation, and animal welfare. You may not remember this, but during recess in elementary school, you used to get the other kids to pick up trash on the playground and lecture them about recycling.

You are funny, with a wonderful sense of the absurd. Because you are a teenager, we give you one free "I hate you, mom" each day. You can say it once, no questions asked, and for the most part, you don't. At the airport, after you had been overseas for 2 weeks and after hugs and pictures, you made sure to tell us you had fourteen of them saved up.

It's been two months and you still haven't used them. But maybe I shouldn't have reminded you!

"Things change and so will you."

There was a time when I wanted to hold the world steady--keep things from changing, protect you from any danger or harm. It's a mother thing and it didn't work. You still needed stitches on your face before your second birthday. Shortly after I started letting you walk on your own to school, you were stung by dozens of wasps. I couldn't help it--the poet in me saw that as a metaphor, but it was just circumstance, bad luck. Pragmatic even at age eight, you kept walking that same route to and from school.

You have been my teacher. You have taught me patience and the power of being present. That we have our own paths and we travel those paths at our own pace. That the things we worry most about are not in our power to change. That laughing at the dinner table is the best medicine money can't buy.

The future is an unknown country that we parents are especially good at populating with monsters. Yes, there will be quicksand and riptides; there will be lions, tigers, and bears, stitches, trips to the ER, wasp stings, and heartache. But there will also be unimagined beauty and the joy of discovering fellow travelers.

"Things change and so will you."

I will hold this moment in my mind, not to capture you, but to remember this point on your journey, knowing your trajectory will take you far beyond my own limited imaginings. And when I feel the pang of that familiar worry, I remind myself that you already have the map you need; it is written in your heart.

Congratulations, P. We are very proud of you.


Kristina Chew said...

This is one for many of us to save, and treasure. Things do change, our children change, we change together.

Phil Schwarz said...

Mazel tov to P. and all of you!
Today, he is a mensch... but that is something he's been for a long long time, and shows every sign of continuing to be.
When it comes to the important stuff like this, change is indeed *not* a desideratum.

Brinda said...

I am an Aspie and I think your blog is great.