November 25, 2016

THE ENGAGEMENT of one’s child is a day most parents yearn for.

Indeed, on the eighth day of a Jewish boy’s life, just seconds after the lad’s circumcision, it is customary for the congregation attending the ceremony to shout out, “Just as he has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into [a life of] Torah, the marriage canopy, and [a life of] good deeds.”

Eight days old, and the sights are already set on a wedding.

But, like so much else that parents long for and desire for their children, there is a flip side.

For instance, what parent doesn’t hanker for their children’s first words, for that moment when their kids will finally talk and express what is going through their little minds. And then, once they start talking, you wish they would shut up for a little while and give you some rest.

Which parent isn’t thrilled when their kids take that first step, only to rue that day soon after because it means the toddlers can now roam beyond the throw rug and – essentially – endanger themselves while destroying the entire house.

And who doesn’t want their children to go to college and acquire knowledge, only to complain afterward about the heavy monetary price of all that knowledge acquisition.

The flip side of your children getting engaged is simple. Not only is your kid gaining a spouse, not only are you – to a certain degree – gaining another child, but you are also being forced to let go of that son or daughter getting married. Granted, you are not losing your child, but you will now have to share that offspring with someone else.

This separation is both natural and necessary for the healthy development of the individual and the species. It is good. It is wonderful. It is joyous. But it also stings a bit.

MY NO. 3 child, the son known as Skippy, got engaged last week to a wonderful, effervescent young woman.

The Wife and I are thrilled that our boy has found a soul mate, and we understand – as it says in the Torah – that the time has come for him to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. Still, it pinches the heart a bit because once he is married, the family dynamic will never be the same. Never.

And I like the family dynamic. It has grown on me over the last few decades.

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Except sometimes – as the kids grow up and you grow older – you have to make adjustments to things that really don’t need fixing.

After hearing the news of Skippy’s engagement, my other three children made some interesting observations.

One of them, as if reading my mind, said I must be really excited now that Skippy will have to move all his junk out of the house, freeing up precious and premium closet and desk space.

Another made the following more appropriate comment: “Mazel tov, now you have a new daughter.” This was followed by a less appropriate comment, “Start getting used to paying for seven when we go on vacations.”

It’s not the paying for an extra room in a hotel from time to time that worries me but, rather, the realization that now we will be competing for my son’s time and attention with his future wife – I’ll resist the temptation of referring to her as The Interloper – and her family.

And the boy’s time is currently at a premium because – bless his heart – he still has a significant chunk of time left in the army. If over the last 17 months I have been on the losing end of a competition for his time with the IDF and his officers, now a fiancée will be added to the mix.

Until now, if he just had a few minutes a night for his signature three-sentence phone call, The Wife and I were at the top of his list. Until now, when he got off for Shabbat, it was clear he would come home.

But now none of that is a given. His first call will go to his girl, as it should (hopefully those conversations will be a bit longer than his calls to us), and his Shabbatot will be split between his home and that of the family of his future wife.

While this will take some getting used to, the engagement – as noted earlier – truly is a blessing. Still, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a conflict between what you want for your kids, what you know is best for your children, and the feelings of longing and loss created by actually getting what for so long you have wished for.

But that dissonance is a small price to pay for something that – even just thinking about it – actually puts a smile on my face.

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