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Helping Hands And Mixed Feelings

Helping Hands And Mixed Feelings

Monday, October 12th, 2009

As I sit in my Manhattan office and write this, my two teenagers are spending part of their isru chag day off from school dismantling the sukkah and returning it to long-term shed storage. I resist the urge to micromanage by calling them up to advise how to angle the metal poles to fit diagonally in the shed.

On the face of it, it’s a nice feeling to imagine coming home to one less item on the week’s agenda, and even better to think of my son and daghter collaborating (hopefully with minimal friction), as they did to complete the sukkah after my initial contribution last week. And taking down the sukkah should be considered just as much part of the mitzvah of observing the chag as putting it up.

But if you dig too deep into it, as I often do (why else would I have a blog?) you start to worry about that now-obsolete sukkah as a metaphor. You become nostalgic for the days when the best your kids could do was stand by for encouragement, maybe bring a glass of iced tea, or decorate the interior after Daddy did all the heavy lifting.

The days of being the indispensable hero are fading. I can already see glimpses of the man and woman my soon-to-be-16 son and 13-year-old daughter are becoming. When I look at old photos, it’s harder to imagine them as the same people, rather than new actors recast in their roles. Soon there will be issues of driving and dating and taking stock of their level of maturity to assess the right levels of independence.

It will still be a while until I begin to flirt with practical (but hopefully not emotional) obsolescence in their lives. Even then, there will be the needs of their younger brother. But the groundwork has begun and our journey together is in flux.

So when I get home tonight, I’ll be glad to be free of worry about the autumn winds continuing to batter the sukkah. But a big part of me would rather still see it standing and spend the next few days being noodged to take it down as I read the kids bedtime stories.

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