From Mom to Marlee, on Becoming a Bat Mitzvah

Hi Marlee,

When you decided to become a Bat Mitzvah we asked you SO MANY questions. And gave you quite a few options. It wasn’t the first time we did this with you (or, by your perception, to you).

Remember that photo I showed you last week? Standing in the driveway with Lila. You were about 5 and 3 years old. Big smiles on your faces. Wildly mismatched outfits.

That trend started when you were 15 months old, when your fashion philosophy was “I like this shirt. I like those pants. They go together!” (They didn’t). At first Dad and I thought it was adorable. Then we were curious. Then concerned. Then we wondered if we should intervene. Then you started wearing THAT OUTFIT and we knew we had to do something.

(Note: I have photo evidence to share with anyone who is interested. FaceBook periodically serves up this memory as well).

I asked around and found out that I was giving you too many options. So, the next time we got dressed, I tried to narrow it down for you.

“Marlee, do you want to wear this shirt or that shirt? These pants or those pants?” You looked right at me and said (with scorn), “Mommy, I want to wear the blue shirt with the yellow flower and the fairy. With leggings…that have the stripes!”. This outfit was that outfit.

Savta remembers that outfit with disdain. Meg is still trying to determine if it actually didn’t match based on my description (it didn’t!).

Day after day I offered you “this or that…these or those”. Every day you stomped your foot and demanded to wear some other outfit.

It was then that I realized YOU ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO ARGUE WITH (Sam and Callie know what I’m talkin’ about!). It’s also when Dad and I figured something out: It’s not our job to make the decisions for you, but it’s absolutely our responsibility to help you make good decisions.

Whether they’re big or small, easy or hard. Whether it feels like you have too many options, not enough options, or no options at all. And especially when there is duality in the decision like when there are decisions wrapped in decisions, but it doesn’t feel like a gift. Like…

Going to camp? Easy.

Deciding which electives to pick? Hard. (Marlee claims this is not hard, just pick whatever Callie picks).

Doing gymnastics? Easy.

Choosing gymnastics over all other possible activities? Kinda hard.

Becoming a bat mitzvah? Easy.

Choosing who to honor in your candle lighting ceremony? So hard! And don’t get me started on the words for candle number twelve.

Marlee, here’s the thing. All the choices are your choices. Whether they are “right” or “wrong”, whether others agree or disagree, (and by the way, it’s hardly ever so black and white) they are always yours.

Dad and I support you. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t ask you so many questions (like we did with your Bat Mitzvah) or give you other options to think about (like we did with aforementioned blue shirt, striped pants combo.)

We’ll help you sort though the options of this or that, these or those.

We’ll guide you with the toughest decisions like who to let in and out of your life and which college to go to.

We’ll listen when it feels like there are no options, like when I pick you up at a sleepover at 9am but you want to leave at 11am (and now I can hear the future arguments about curfews).

We’ll remind you, over and over again, that you ALWAYS have a choice in how you react and how you respond. And this is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make. We hope you’ll do this with kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, and empathy.

Marlee, we especially support the choice you made today. To become a bat mitzvah. To celebrate with friends and family. And, the decision I anticipate you’ll make next…Dad and Lila’s favorite: to have so much fun for the rest of the night.

Mazel Tov.

Oh, and by the way. That outfit? Great choice.

MarleeAug31