I am unsure how to translate what took place at Bryan’s Bar Mitzvah to the blog. I am not even sure I should blog about it but in the end I do want to capture my feelings while they are still somewhat raw. At the house he got dressed and said “I look handsome”; the boy just loves to get dressed up.
To see Bryan on the Bima on Saturday was like watching a conductor with his orchestra. He clearly wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah, we knew that prior to Saturday, but we didn’t know he wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah. His entire being, his entire body, soul, essence spoke to us. He let us know I am in control of myself, my body, my words and my life. I can make this day great, because it is important to me, and to my family. Even saying these things, it really doesn’t do it justice. I don’t want it to sound like his reading was flawless or his Hebrew was flawless. It wasn’t, but he showed something intangible that so far exceeded expectations, it was mind blowing. He was poised, he was independent, and he was confident. He was a man. He had a grace and joy about him I have never seen before and he was beaming with happiness and pride. He was exuberant! Earl, Jason, and I did not cry. The three of us kept saying to each other “look at him” and just stared with our mouths open. He sat in the chair and was looking out at everyone like he was the king, and for that one hour, he was. He moved through the service with ease and independence. He gave a few thumbs up to us and it was natural and engaging. Most people were crying. It was sort of odd to be sitting there and hearing sniffles but I think most people were shocked, and in a good way, at how he was. I know from speaking to family and friends afterward that there was a level of uncertainty going into the day and I think that’s fair and justified. What they got, and what we got, no one could predict. He played us like a fiddle and we all danced to his tune. My heart will never be the same.
At the end of the service he said, “now we can go to the party”. He is a product of Earl and me, ever the party boy. We both love to work the room! When we got to the party, he was relaxed and happy. Everyone was telling him how well he had done and he seemed very pleased with himself. We had a superhero theme and he looked around and took it in stride. He had heard us prepping for months! Interestingly enough, I did not interact much with him at the party. We did the Hora and chair lifting. We ate lunch, and I can tell you I have no idea what my boys ate or if they ate. They were independent. Earl and I have a natural chemistry at all gatherings, which we’ve had from the beginning. We both are incredibly social and can mill about without worrying what the other one is doing. We enjoyed visiting with our guests but also meeting back at our small table filled with old friends, minus a few who got stuck in NY due to the snowstorm. We had some old school laughs and tears and watched it unfold. Our extended family is loving and enthusiastic and there was just enough party for it to be fun without it getting too overwhelming for Bryan or his friends. Earl and I took turns inviting family and friends up to light candles. Bryan posed for lots of photos and didn’t even mind being jostled around by the photographer. He just loved the limelight. Toward the end we played an extensive photo montage set to music; we knew Bryan wouldn’t last too long and predicted an end around 3pm. Around 2:45 a tired, slightly sweaty Bryan came over and said “i can go home” but his body language said “my work here is done.” The party came to an end not long afterward but the high continues. I truly do not think my feet will ever touch the ground again.
One of our dear friends came back to the house with us after the party. He lives in NY and both Earl and I have known him since childhood but didn’t know each other. He stayed over and we had some other friends over for pizza and drinks just to keep things going. It was relaxing and Bryan got to spend some time with some of his friends too that were visiting from Georgia. Our friend asked me if seeing Bryan at the Bar Mitzvah changed how I felt about Bryan for the future; could he achieve more than we anticipated given his ability to rise to the occasion. I really had to ponder that one. I don’t really think anything has changed for me or us, but don’t want to speak for Earl. I think I’ve always looked at him and hoped for the best but as his parent, planned for the “worst”. One thing I think I did learn was that I need to up my game a bit, not let him get away with bad behavior at times when I think it’s because of autism and not because of Bryan. There’s always a lesson if you’re paying attention.
To say I’m not a delicate flower is putting it mildly. I am convinced that I have a child with autism because I can handle it. I am a warrior mom; if you try to stop me when I identify something one of our boys need, let’s just say, it won’t be pretty. I’m not bragging, I’m offering up the facts here.
We are now looking at 5 days until Bryan’s Bar Mitzvah. We are on the 5 day forecast. My friend Jamie will remember that years ago when she and I were getting married just a brief 3 weeks apart we joked that it didn’t feel real until your wedding date was on the 5 day forecast. Not as meaningful down here in Florida since the weather is basically the same all of the time, and not in a bad way, but you get the meaning.
There are a handful of last minute things that need to get done, some are more significant than others, but with a finite amount of time left, if you are not part of the solution, do your best to get out of my way. Don’t slow me down and don’t tell me to calm down, everything will work out. Damn straight it will work out, because Earl or I will personally make sure it does. Kudos to the husband on this Bar Mitzvah journey. He let me do my thing, let me “Jane it up” which means let me do a lot of the things in the way I like to do them. Don’t get me wrong, he is way involved, he cares a lot, but in the way that works best for our situation. Which means, if you don’t really care about something that much, let me go with it. If it’s something that you think won’t change your life, back off, I got this. Division of labor is important in all marriages, but an acknowledgement of what works best for your team, well that takes some maturity. Last night we had the boys try their suits on to make sure they fit. I really was doing this just to do it, not thinking there would be any sort of issue. After all, we just had them at the tailor about 10 days ago. Bryan’s pants were waaaaay too tight. Um, that’s a problem. So what kind of behavior did I display in response to this problem? What teaching and problem solving behavior did I model for my boys? I screamed bloody f-g murder at both of them. I yelled at Bryan to stop eating so much and yelled at Jason to stop laughing that nothing is funny 5 days before the Bar Mitzvah. What is interesting is that the pants can be fixed, but their emotional scars from my reaction, well, that will take a bit longer. After an hour of my apologizing and telling them I’m the worst mommy ever, taking a xanax, I finally got hold of myself. Earl came home and after a little while of talking it through, he calmed me down. I am proud to say years ago we would’ve argued about this, but now he knows what to say to calm me down. (Those of you that are married know that is not a little thing, it’s a big thing.) After Earl and I talked and said hey, it’s only Monday night and the tailor would be open the next day we can get this resolved all seemed okay. This morning, I said to Bryan, “I was a really bad Mommy last night”, to which he said “you can be a good mommy today”. I don’t deserve this exoneration but for now I will take it because I need to push forward.
The boys have been watching us through this process. Jason says “mommy you like to do everything really fast” as we were working on putting together the party favors the other night. Oh boy! Earl and I just laughed. Type A, I own it. Bryan, on the other hand, has been really good about being whisked out of the room as we discuss candle lighting poems, looking through photos, and discussing seating arrangements. Knowing him as well as we do, he is just happy we are happy with him and this is all about him.
One of the main things I am working on this week is reminding myself that Bryan has autism. I know that will sound peculiar but it is significant. What I mean is that in all of the planning, dreaming, loving, it cannot be lost on us, particularly me, that some part of the ceremony, party, etc. may go a bit sideways by typical standards. I need to allow myself the mental and emotional flexibility to embrace these things for Bryan’s sake and for everyone’s sake. Earl and I will set the tone for the event, so our ability to go with the flow is essential. This is easier for Earl, I can admit that, however, I would like to think that in knowing Bryan as well as I do, and adoring this boy with every drop of myself, I will rise to the occasion too.