A highlight of my drive to drop-off my daughters at school (and trust me, some days it can be a long drive from South Brookline with three girls!) is listening to popular hits on the radio. As I approach Hannah’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah this weekend, I can’t tell you how much Adele’s “Hello” resonates with me as the words, “the other side,” take on a deeper meaning.
It is hard to believe that in just a few days I am going to be the mother of the Bat Mitzvah. Recently, I heard Erica Brown, a local author and educator, speak about the significance of being “in-between.” I distinctly remember that in-between time when I was pregnant and wondered about the journey of parenthood ahead of me. There may be a no more awkward, in-between time, than as a child approaches adolescence, and it is both curious and wonderful that as a Jewish community we mark the beginning of this transformation by celebrating a Bat Mitzvah together.
Hannah is the child who changed my name to Mommy (well these days it is more like Mo-om, with the requisite eye roll). When Hannah went to preschool, she was a quiet happy child who loved books, crafts and spending time with family. I am so happy that over the years, not much has changed – except now she has swapped those many board books to her Kindle. It is a pleasure to watch Hannah as she transitions into a sensitive, nurturing teenager – who still loves reading, sewing, knitting and spending time with friends and family. I can attest to the saying that the days go slowly, but the years go by so fast. It is hard for me to process that my adorable once-4-year-old is reaching this milestone within days.
Asking a thirteen-year-old to read a foreign language, chant from an ancient scroll and share personal thoughts and reflections is a daunting and overwhelming task, to say the least. But when you think about it, these challenges are exactly what young teenagers need, in order to learn about themselves and their community. At times, Hannah has expressed that she would never be able to “do the whole thing.” She has often wondered aloud, “What if I make a mistake?” “What will happen if I can’t do it?” Mike and I have continually assured her that mistakes happen and that she can do anything when she puts her mind to it. But I am sure that once this experience is over, she will better understand the ideas of courage and perseverance for having exhibited it herself.
She should always remember that she is not alone – if she does make a mistake, Rabbi Sonia or Cantor Schloss will be there to help her, to nudge her along and get her back on track. And as to community, could there be a better message to a young adult than the entire community assembling in our grand sanctuary – the same sanctuary where Mike and I married almost 16 years ago – to listen and learn her words of Torah? While in some ways, after this weekend, a part of my mommy job will be done, I know that in other ways, it just signals another of those in-between times. Surrounded by the community that has been an essential part of our lives for twenty years, another step of our family’s journey has just begun!
Shari Churwin is the Education Director at Temple Ohabei Shalom and the proud mom of three beautiful daughters.