(that's my eldest daughter's nickname).
For most of the time leading up to it, the NFO (that's my wife's nickname) was busy doing almost all of the preparation work. As things got closer, I certainly tried to chip in and do my share, but I didn't have much time to think about what the emotional experience would be like.
And I really couldn't have anticipated it.
As I blogged recently, I believe in the "moments, not milestones" concept, but the idea of a Bat Mitzvah as milestone serves as a forcing function to reflect. It's like a plateau on a hike. A moment to see how far you've come, appreciate it, and think about the next step.
What I saw in front of me was really a young girl who is in the process of becoming a young woman. It was a "sunrise/sunset" moment as I thought back to the day of her birth and how I as so emotionally charged that I, as the NFO would say, "cried nonstop for 24 hours."
Then, I thought about the next milestone (at least in the lifecycle sense)...her wedding. That got me choked up as well.
But back to the here and now.
Standing in front of me, our friends, our family, our community, I saw a young woman who was able to overcome her immense fears of public speaking, lead services, read from the family's 200+ year old Torah that survived the Holocaust (story here and here).
In fact, I told her that part of becoming an adult is the ability to recognize your fears and conquer them, to do things that you may not want to do, but do them because you have to do them.
I saw a young woman who worked so diligently over the past year to learn Torah, Mishnah, prayer services.
She gave 4 speeches on multiple themes
- Saturday morning on the topic of miracles [abbreviated version, full version]
- Sunday morning on Anger,
- Sunday afternoon on the value of human life
She also prepared a video montage of her life by herself and built a powerpoint to accompany one of the speeches (on the topic of anger).
She handled the stress with poise, elegance, and grace and I could not be more proud of her.
I also took a moment to think about the task of raising children. To say that the NFO and I think alike would be like saying that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders think alike.
Ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but in our daughter, we were able to see the outgrowth of our co-parenting efforts, to see how each of us bring our unique viewpoints to a developing person and how she takes the best from each of us and has the wisdom to discard the unnecessary flotsam and jetsam. It was pretty cool, like we were collaborating (and more and more with Tonka herself) on creating a beautiful human being.
I stood in awe of the NFO as I never appreciated her as much as I did this past weekend. Not only how she paid attention to every single tactical, logistical weekend and did everything she could to make our guests/community feel welcome and inspired, but even more than that.
When I saw Tonka deliver at such a high level, I recognized just how much of that was there because of what the NFO taught her and how the NFO just is, her very essence.
I was definitely the proud papa. It helped center me on my family, my children, and ultimately, I suppose in some way, my legacy of how I contributed to making the world a better place. Tonka made me feel great and I am so thankful to all of the people who helped us and her (no matter how big the contribution) in becoming the person she is today.
If you'd like to see the pictures of the event (that I took), you can click here.
For some of the videos, see below.
And my dad gave a brilliant speech (in the form of a play), which you can read here...consistent with Tonka's love of Pandas.
And here are my mom's blessings.
Presentation on Anger (to go with speech on Anger)