Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A VERY Proud Father's Words to his Son, the Bar Mitzvah

Ed. Note : I thought for a while before deciding to include these words in my blog. I hope you will ratify my decision.


Hey buddy! You made it! I bet there were times, although you never expressed it, that you might not have been sure you were going to make it. If there were, that would have been perfectly normal – most of the kids I have prepared for Bar or Bat Mitzvah over the years have had that moment.

But, as you so eloquently put it in your own unique way in your speech -- you are NOT most kids that I have worked with! You ARE the Rabbi’s kid! You ARE MY kid!! A blessing – and a curse ☺ For each of us!

But, even more than that – you are DAVID. From your arrival, you have been unique, and you have been influential. I think it is safe to say that YOU are a significant reason we are here in Bowie (okay, we are NOT IN Bowie at this very moment, but you know what I mean!)

If your mother hadn’t been pregnant with you when we were looking to leave Fredericksburg, I am pretty sure we would have ended up in Massachusetts and not in Connecticut. Things would have been different, and we probably wouldn’t have been looking to move when the chance came to come to Bowie.

And, even when we got here, there were many who advised us to follow the prevailing trend and buy a house in Crofton, not in Bowie. But, in large part because of the services that Bowie offered more easily that have been so helpful to you, we landed in the city itself.

I often say that every kid who reaches this moment is unique – I think it is safe to say that you are a little MORE unique than most! And that has nothing to do with me, or mommy or Emily – but EVERYTHING to do with you! We don’t often talk publicly about the challenges you have to overcome every day, both physical and behavioral, challenges that impact how you walk, how you write, how you think, and how you behave.

We don’t talk about them publicly for a couple of reasons. First, in general, they are not really anyone’s business except the people who have to work with you to help you learn and grow like “normal kids” do. Second, we want you to be as “normal” as you can be, whatever that means, and really do not want to inspire sympathy from others. Third, we realize that despite these challenges, you, and we, are actually pretty darn lucky – for what you deal with, it could be a whole lot worse!

But most of all, we don’t talk about them because, to most people, you really ARE remarkably normal. You can be totally out of control at times – what almost 13 year old boy can’t be! You have your likes and dislikes, the things you love to spend time with, and the things you have to be forced to do. When we tell you to do one of those things you don’t want to, you ignore us, or negotiate, or argue, or stall – anything to avoid doing it. I ask your friends and relatives gathered here – doesn’t THAT sound normal?

But, you are so much more than that! In part because of the physical issues, you were slow to walk and move around on your own. Many people never knew – because in public, you were never allowed to be in a position to have to move around on your own. EVERYONE wanted to hold you and carry you. So much so, that we threatened to have a shirt made for you that said “Please, let me walk” – AFTER we were already here!

You have learned to adjust, with help from lots of people, and many of them are here today celebrating with you. The reason they wanted to spend this day celebrating what you have achieved is because THEY know that you have busted your butt to EARN it, because they have given so much of themselves in woring with you. There are friends here from MTR, who have taught you to ride horses, and helped us to realize how fortunate we are compared to others, who have improved your physical skills and given you pride in your achievements. But, they are here because they like YOU – the sweet, lovable, fun-loving kid who works to improve himself every day.

There are educators, counselors and specialists from your school, who have worked tirelessly with you and with us to try to create the best environment for your educational growth, often overcoming absurd obstacles that are placed in your way and our way by others. They, too, are here because of their genuine affection for you – the person you already are, and the young man you are becoming every day.

When I was in 8th grade, I had an amazing English teacher named Elaine Re. Much of what I still use almost 40 years later about communicating well with people I learned from her. But more than what she taught me in the classroom, she was one of those remarkable people who are influential far beyond their words. I still remember what she wrote in my Junior High School yearbook (and I went and looked up the exact quote for today!):

“I know you will be successful in whatever you do. There are many opportunities [ahead]. Take advantage of all of them, and don’t forget the values your parents have given you. Stay as sensitive and sincere as you are now.”

As your Rabbi, AND as your dad, I cannot think of a better hope and prayer from me to you on this amazing day. Today, there will be those who will say “Of course he was amazing – he is the Rabbi’s kid!” And, don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly proud of you today – even more than every day. But I know that the source of my pride is as much in seeing, I flatter myself to believe, so much of me in you. I finally understand what Miss Re was saying that day. If I am responsible in any way for who you are, and as your dad, I would like to think that I had better be!, what you have achieved in reaching this day and what you have shown today makes me proud. Of YOU! Not because I am the Rabbi, but because you are David! And it is DAVID who is amazing today -- NOT the Rabbi's kid!

And, because I have learned from past experience, and want to end on a lighter note. Today, we share, you and I, along with both your grandfathers who are here celebrating, and generations who came before them, the experience of becoming a young Jewish man. People look at pictures of me at your age, and at you, and know that we are father and son, without a doubt, which is also a source of pride.

But, as we celebrate on this day, without even realizing it, we share one more bond. In first grade, the doctors took a fairly extreme step of severing your gastrokinemeous muscle (what we used to more simply call your calf muscle) to release pressure on your ankle and allow more freedom of growth. It is a procedure that you may yet again face when you begin that late Weisman family growth spurt in upcoming months.

Little did we know, when I injured myself last month, because first we focused on the huge raspberry, and then the swelling and the knee pain, that the lasting injury would be to my – wait for it – gastrokinemeous muscle! So today, I join you in the gastrok club, even as you join grampy and grandpa, and my two grandfathers for whom you are named, and me as an adult Jewish man. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love ya, Doo!

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