My son’s bar mitzvah became an accidental homeschool showcase. We had a hard time getting a Hebrew tutor to come to our house, so I started teaching Hebrew myself.
Then we hired a consultant to tell my son what prayers to learn and we bought Trope Trainer to learn how to chant the prayers (the chants are bazillion year-old musical formulas).
The consultant was not great (she missed the fact that we were doing a bar mitzvah on Rosh Chodesh, for those of you are are hard-core enough to want to judge for yourselves.) And Trope Trainer was not exactly a bar mitzvah planner.
But my son was great at teaching himself the prayers. He loved learning without me breathing down his neck, he loved having a clear deadline, and clear goals. It turned out that preparing for a bar mitzvah is his idea of a fun project.
I spent my time figuring out how to make the day something he’d like. He wanted a small affair. He wanted no dancing. He didn’t want to be at a table with me—he wanted to be with his two best friends.
So we rented a tent and the whole thing was small enough that I bought all my own dishes –a different Nathalie Lete plate for each guest. Pressed glass vases and pitchers, and cut peonies from the garden. Hundreds.
And—I don’t know what made me decide to do this—but I cooked for 50 people. I made brisket the week before. But even so, I was up all the night before, baking bread, and picking tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce from the garden as soon as the sun came up.
The day was perfect—stunning. Like something from a book. Or from a book too perfect to be believed.
But I spent all the time before just worrying.
I worried the prayers were wrong.
I worried my son would panic.
I worried guests wouldn’t like the farm.
I worried it would rain. Or be too hot. Or too cold.
I worried I wasn’t making the day special for my son.
I worried I couldn’t do all the cooking myself.
I wish I had stopped to notice what an excellent job my son was doing. He did a fantastic job of teaching himself all the prayers, and handled himself with poise on his day.
I wish I had thought about what I would wear. I threw on any old thing I found. It was the farm, so it was casual, but I wish I had dressed a little bit special and had looked a little bit cute and spunky to celebrate the day.
I wish I had taken pictures. There are no pictures. I turns out that people don’t take pictures on their phones when it’s not their kid going on their Instagram feed. So I have one picture.
What I wish, really, is that I had taken time to relish my son’s successes along the way. And I wish I had taken time to celebrate my own achievement of creating a special day for everyone.
Because right now I can see my future, and it’s no different from the bar mitzvah: everything will be fine, my kids will be happy, and everyone will marvel about what I was able to do. And I will undermine all that success and happiness with worry and self-doubt. I’ll miss the moments I should treasure. And I won’t look cute and spunky while doing it.
I don’t want that future. There is no grand set of photos on this post because I don’t have any. But there is a promise to myself to stop worrying so much about whether I’m good enough.