I can see my future, and something needs to change

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.



19 replies
  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I love this post. I have some of those negative tendancies, but am lucky that my husband points them out and helps me reconnect to what matters. And because of this post, I’ll be buying a new outfit for the upcoming children’s birthday bash I’m hosting. Thank you!

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    How many of us can identify with worrying so much about an event that we fail to enjoy the event? (raises hand)

    None of us is perfect; all of us are good enough.

  3. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    I relate to this so much! Thanks for writing this. Now I’m going to go make myself look spunky and fun, like how I feel, instead of disheveled and drab. :-)

  4. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    I’ll add another good read today, on Peter Gray’s fabulous blog Freedom to Learn. Today’s read is called “The Good Enough Parent is the Best Parent.”

    “Good enough parents do not worry too much about their imperfections. They strive to do the things listed below, but they recognize that they will not always succeed as fully as they might wish, and they forgive themselves for that. Good enough parents recognize that even love is never perfect; it is always at least somewhat fickle. In Bettelheim’s words, “There are few loves which are entirely free of ambivalence. … Not only is our love for our children sometimes tinged with annoyance, discouragement, and disappointment, the same is true for the love our children feel for us.” Good enough parents accept this as part of the human condition. Good enough parents understand that nature has created children to be quite resilient. We would not have survived as a species if that were not true. As long as parents don’t mess up too badly (and sometimes even if they do), the children will turn out OK, and OK is good enough.”

    Google up and read the rest. It’s nice.

    Oh, and mabruk.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the reference point. I really like the idea of accepting that complicated love is part of the human condition.


  5. jessica
    jessica says:

    Can’t not worry unless creating conditions to free oneself from it. Learn from this event for the next, not for the kids, but for yourself.

  6. Deidre
    Deidre says:

    Ahhh… the damn pictures!

    You know how I remember an event from which I have perfect pictures? After reviewing them a few times, that’s what stays in my head! Not the event itself. I hate that.

    And you do have these blissful special memories. They are priceless.

    Plus would be much worse to have an event that didn’t turn out that would seem idyllic through perfect pictures.

    You can cherish what you have, relive the memories with your son, for years. And celebrate the bond it help you create.

  7. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I think you can get a pass on this one. This was a pretty significant day for your son, and you wanted it to be as special as possible. Not only that, but you wanted to make sure all your guests had a great time. I would have had just as difficult a time as you did, including forgetting to take pictures. Even at my wedding I was so out of it that I don’t really remember much of what should have been a special night of memories.

    Tips for next time: Hire a photographer & videographer. Hire a catering company. Hire an assistant/party planner to help with the decor and your attire. Less things to worry about and more time to be present and enjoy what is happening.

  8. sarah faulkner
    sarah faulkner says:

    Since reading your blog I have become more laid back. My older boys love homeschooling. I read so many blogs about women who are now to busy to homeschool and send their kids to school, and I wonder if what it really means is they are to busy
    to live up to homeschooling expectations? If they did not feel that need to school 6 hours a day on every subject would they still have stopped? But then I wonder if I am just being judgemental to feel better that I have not stopped.

  9. Jill
    Jill says:

    Another great blog! This past Christmas I was hosting a Christmas Eve party and Christmas dinner so I got my hair blown out before hand. As much work as it was I felt so good and looked cute in the photos. I also now make a point to buy a fresh top and get my nails done for my kids birthdays. Things I don’t regularly do.
    And further to tie point…
    I had tortured myself for giving up my career and staying home with my kids. Now that I look back I think it was all good, why did I need to question and doubt myself so much. And it’s not like I was going to change.
    I hope we learn how to get over our doubt someday. We’d be so much cuter!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Ps. Your son’s bar mitzvah sounds like my wedding, without the cool plates.

  10. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I love, love, love organizing events that bring together friends & family in a unique way to celebrate something special- it’s simply magical, but often tough to enjoy as the host. I wanted that for my wedding so my husband & I planned to have it where I grew up in Kenya. Not only did we have to organize a wedding from afar, we also planned a week-long safari for overseas friends & families coming from 5 different continents. It was outstandingly special, but I still remember the anxiety well.

    My point is that it takes attention-to-detail, hardwork and a bit of luck to pull off a really special one-off event like you did. But worry and attention-to-detail go together like a horse and carriage. It takes real experience to tame the worry – you just don’t get it for free, keep your expectations of yourself reasonable. Reflection on the event is good, extrapolating that one day to your entire life is questionable.

    So chin up, the day sounds amazing. Better yet, celebrate that you didn’t flip out during the event, that happens alot too. Nobody really cares that you didn’t look cute and spunky, just you and maybe your mum. Anyway even better there are no pictures to say you didn’t look good.

    At my wedding, loads of the overseas guests brought all their camera gear. At times you would think it was a camera convention as they all compared the size of their lenses. There were hundreds and hundreds of photos taken on the day and throughout the week. I made sure people sent them all to me, but I doubt if I’ve looked at them all. In fact in the 10 years since I don’t recall looking through the photos once. But I do know I am often reminded of the day when I get together someone who was there. You don’t need the photos. A blog post is worth a thousand pictures right? And you’ll be amazed how you’ll be reminded of that special day time & time again by those who were there and for whom it will burn long in their memories and hearts.

  11. Monica
    Monica says:

    I check your blog and The Pioneer Woman’s blog almost every day. Her blog is pretty but I usually leave it feeling inadequate. I don’t really know why I keep looking at it. My husband is constantly telling me to stay off of it and to stay off Facebook. In my mind, I know they are both just images of what they want us to see. Perfection or close to it. Your blog is the opposite for me. I leave it feeling helped, understood, and “normal”. For all I know you could also be showing us only the stuff you want us to see. Either way, this blog is a lifeline for me as a former career obsessed individual who gave it up to homeschool her boys. I worry all the time if it was the right thing to do and this post gave me peace this morning that I needed. Thank you.

  12. JML
    JML says:

    I don’t want that future either! Even the smallest event (like a regular old birthday party) can have me wrecked with worry. And I also fear (know!) that I miss everything because of it. And then I’m so mean to myself and envy the moms (i.e., every other mom!) who can just do things and it doesn’t matter. But you’re right, at the end of the day, it always works out and everyone and everything is ok. I just wonder how to actually stop worrying. Because my narrative has always been that worrying = caring. Which is false, of course. People care without worrying all the time. So then I wonder if it’s just the more charming part of my uptight, perfectionist personality.

    I always appreciate your humanity, especially when you write about parenting. Because it always leaves me feeling like I just might be ok too.

  13. linda
    linda says:

    The problem with photographing an event is it takes away from experiencing the event. People wind up so caught up in capturing every moment and getting the perfect photo that they are not in the moment of the important event. Your family had a perfect day. That is enough.

  14. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    It’s true that one photo isn’t enough for this important event. Thankfully, though, you do have one photo to remember it by. Also you’re doing the next best thing here by using your talent as a writer to give a memorable description. One way to look at this misfortune is to imagine there was a time when cameras were either too expensive or didn’t exist. Somehow people were able to get by. So my only advice at this point is to save any memorabilia and further chronicle the event while it’s still rather fresh in your memory.

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