About 11 years ago, my wife and I, along with our immediate family, spent a crowded but memorable Sukkot together with my in-laws at their old home in Montreal. Over what would be one of the last all-family Montreal Sukkot with all of my in-laws’ family, including all our nieces and nephews, we gathered together in my in-laws’ wood sukkah and had a wonderful time. My own kids, all under 11 at the time, loved spending time with their mostly bigger and older cousins.
At the time, none of my nephews or nieces were married yet and all of the grandchildren were present, ranging in age from 23 to three. As the youngest and newest son-in-law (although not the smallest), I recall the distinct sense that big changes were afoot for the family.
Over the Yom Tov it was revealed to us that our oldest nephew was going out seriously with a young woman and the hope was that by the next chag he would be married. As our entire family visited the best Chol Hamoed activities that Montreal had to offer in the form of rope courses, hikes and parks, I know that I wasn’t the only one thinking that that year might very well be the last “family” Sukkot without any married grandchildren.
We were definitely on the brink of major changes and growth for the extended family.
And that’s exactly what happened. By next year, our beloved nephew was already married and I was trying to understand how I was going to be a great-uncle at the ripe old age of 35. Our family had changed forever!
Over these past few weeks I have had a similar sense of deep and fundamental changes coming for my own family...and coming really fast. I have attended, in relatively quick succession, the graduations of my eldest, my daughter Tamar, who
graduated from Stern College; my 12th grade son, Noam, who graduated from TABC this past Monday; and my youngest son, Eyal, who graduated from eighth grade at Yeshivat Noam last week. These graduations also mark the end of 20 years of Kinderlehrer children attending Yeshivat Noam, a school my wife and I feel very close to. It’s quite hard for us to imagine not having a child there.
With these graduations, we are also seeing our children move on and up. Our daughter will be starting a job in Manhattan and will soon be looking for an apartment. We will miss her dearly although she will likely be coming home on most Thursday nights and some Shabbosim to do laundry and restock, we hope. Our graduating high school senior Noam, will be heading off to Yeshivat Reishit Yerushalayim in August. I am really jealous of him and the opportunity he has in front of him. He will hopefully have the next year or two to be able to focus on growing and learning—and, of course, playing basketball—in an environment with hardly any of the many distractions and pressures he will encounter later in life.
I still remember how clear my mind was and how much I was able to learn when I was in yeshiva post-high school and did not have to worry about making a living or getting married (keep in mind we did not have smartphones back then). My learning after my yeshiva years, even while I was in RIETS and studying for semicha, never came close in terms of quality and quantity, relatively speaking, to what I was able to achieve in my earlier yeshiva years. I truly hope my son experiences something similar in the Holy Land next year and beyond. I am confident he will.
For our eighth grader, Eyal, the move to high school is a big one for him but even more for us, his parents, as it now hits home to us that our kids are really growing up. I believe it’s been a bit harder for my wife, who has had some crying bouts over the past few weeks. She likes to tell me that she simply doesn’t understand where the time has gone. If I am on my game as a husband, I usually try to refrain from explaining smartly where the time has gone. She also likes to tell me that she would want to have the time back and miss the years when our kids were younger and needed us more. Again, I will try to say the right thing or make the right sounds but will sometimes fail in providing much comfort, if any. Sometimes I say the right thing...but just as often will fall short. I think most husbands understand my plight.
Although I generally do a decent job of holding my tears in, all of these changes have definitely hit me hard. As parents, I believe we have to consciously choose between feeling excited, happy and positive about our children’s next steps in this world and being depressed, sad and nervous about how we are aging and how time is flying by. And I do my best to choose the former. I always try to be a source of strength and positive energy for all that my children are doing now and will attempt to do in the future in all of their endeavors, even when they don’t seem to need us much. It’s not always easy, for sure, and sometimes I fail, but overall I do my best. Hopefully, that will be good enough.
Mazal tov to my three graduates and to all their friends and to all the graduates in our readership and community!