I have written this piece about a thousand times in my head. I have tried for the last week or so to put down in words what it feels like to be marrying off a child, and I’ve come to the realization that there aren’t enough words to adequately describe the immeasurable thoughts swimming in my brain.
Like any life cycle event, people are quick to share good advice and bad, usually with the best of intentions. And, it seems as with any life cycle event, there are feelings one experiences that are not the ones you’re “supposed” to feel. You’re supposed to feel happy, excited, over- the- moon. And here’s the good news- I DO! But you are most definitely not supposed to be anxious (any more than you are on any given day), frustrated, sad, or grief- stricken. Good or bad, I have felt those too.
I have been told that marrying off your first child is out of this world, that marrying off your only daughter is even further out of this world. I don’t even think I’m supposed to be in the same solar system at this rate, seeing as how I am marrying off my first child who is also my only daughter. I have been told that daughters are simply special, a unique delight. That bothers me though, because I have three of the best, most beloved sons in addition to that unique young lady. I have yet to walk a child down the aisle, but I have this uncanny feeling that I will be just as much of a basket case (I can say it- you can’t!) when its my boys’ time to join their betrothed in blissful matrimony. We spend so much time lifting up our girls but sometimes, to our boys’ detriment. All of our children deserve a mom who thinks the world of them- and who would do well with a large glass of wine or a tranquilizer from time to time, particularly when that time is before they’re about to get hitched.
Giving your child away is an unreal, surreal event. You pray for it to happen, you hope to G-D it happens at the right time and with the right person, but you don’t bargain for the other emotions that manage to bore their way through. You find yourself reliving your own mother- daughter challenges while folks tell you to just calm down. You find yourself missing that very same woman while telling yourself that she’ll be at the wedding in spirit. From not- so- out- of- the- blue, you find yourself talking about things like mikvah and hair coverings and setting up house. With your daughter. The bride.
You find yourself beseeching the heavens, the cosmos, family dynamics and karma- did I do a good job? Did I do what I was supposed to do for this child? Have I given her the things moms are supposed to give their daughters? Is she ready to leave her parents’ home so she can establish her own? And for good measure, when did I become old enough to be the mother of the bride?
There are times when you focus on the things you are gaining. A wonderful son- in- law, an even happier daughter, a rockin’ wedding with pictures that will tell her beautiful tale. And without trying, you think about the moments after candle lighting on a Friday night, when your husband and sons go to synagogue when you’ll no longer have someone with whom to share your chill out, pick your jewelry, match your outfit, crash on the couch post- Sabbath kindling. It dawns on you that she won’t be there to tell you if you picked a nice Shabbat outfit or if you should change because all she can say, with a disapproving smile is, “um… go change mommy.” You become aware of the jewelry she will no longer raid, the hair coverings she won’t try to ‘borrow.’ You even start to miss the ever present omelette pan that seems to find its way in the sink every, single, blessed morning. You realize that even though she’ll be in the same country all of 30 minutes away, that you will miss her more than you can bear.
Being overwhelmed with memories, both past and present, of the utterly fantastic child your daughter is, the woman she is becoming, her maturity, her delightful silliness, her integrity, and her holiness; that’s stuff you have to let yourself be grateful for and admire. Realizing that while she will always be your little girl, she is in fact a woman is hard to wrap your head around. And you don’t necessarily share this with folks because it doesn’t sound very mother-of-the-bride.
When you give yourself permission to feel the typical and atypical though, that’s when you allow yourself to feel human, to be human. When you acknowledge that the good, the bad, and the sometimes hideously ugly are all part of the process, that’s when you can let go of the unpleasant feelings and make room for the happier ones. My plan is to look polished, freaking awesome, tomorrow night all while my kishkies do a dance of their very own. And guess what? That’s OK. Its perfectly fine to feel imperfectly fine, even in the most happiness- laden of places. I am learning that here are no rules for how I should feel and that the only thing I should feel is what I already do.
Right now, I feel complete and utter joy, exuberance, elation, a little sadness, and a lot of numb. Tonight I am the mother of the bride. Tomorrow night I shall be the mother of four children, plus one. I’ll let you know how I’m feeling about that afterwards.