I wrote my bar mitzvah speech for Benno years ago. It came so clearly to me one evening what my wish for the man he is becoming would be. I just reread it and it still holds true.
While many speeches of becoming a man focus on responsibility and this rite of passage to adulthood and all the demands it comes with, I focused on the exact opposite, I focused on childhood magic as that remains my wish for him. I don’t wish for him to grow up, he’s done that. I wish for him to grow BACK.
I wish for him pure confidence and joy that only a child can have. I want him to break all the rules. I want him to roll down the hill with abandon (not fear of a broken arm). I wish for stupid mistakes and careless decisions. I wish for expulsions from school for goofing off. I wish for only “naughty” things.
As many of you know, Benno suffers from a generalized anxiety disorder. I wish I could use cancer as the excuse for this, but no, Benno was diagnosed before cancer. He came out the womb not looking at the world with wonder, but as if he had been here before, and knew…this place is no wonder.
While other babies would reach for any reachable object to just push straight into their mouths, delighted by the new “thing” and wanting to explore all of it (even its taste), Benno looked at new objects with only concern, “is this dangerous?” I never had to worry about him grabbing something and just shoving it in his mouth. At first this was a welcomed sign- brilliance!
While other toddlers explored the world through crawling and scooting about trying to get to new unexplored places (“Oh look stairs! Where do those go?”), Benno stayed put and only would explore places deemed safe by his toddler brain.
When playing with my four year old “firetruck,” he did not save the day by putting out the fire in Elmo’s house, but often he would “run out of gas” or there would be “traffic!” and Elmo would burn. I’m not kidding.
And as a 12 year old as children play flashlight wars and joke, Benno fears he will lose his sight from a flashlight going straight into his eyes.
And I write because I’m sad. I’m sad that he has a whole life of traffic ahead. Adulthood is traffic and that these years should be an Eazy pass. He should be cruising through the HOV lane of life. I see him struggle. I see his “adult like” tinted glasses and want to rip them off as those tints should only be for the jaded, the adults who have seen how dark life can be.
I know that it can be hard seeing your kids grow up. Seeing your kids learn that the greater world does not abide by the simple rules of the sandbox. That can be hard, but watching them never have it…that is worse.