Thirteen | A Welcome into Manhood



Mark and I always knew thirteen would be a monumental year for our children. We want it to be. The teen years are such a unique and sweet window of time, chocked full with beautiful and large changes––puberty! driving! hormones! oh my. There are umpteen reasons for parents to panic about these transitional years, and for the most part, it seems those panicked concerns receive the bulk of attention in the parenting world. Why not instead welcome the teen years, celebrate the closing of one period of life and the opening of another? We took notes from the Jewish Bar Mitzvah tradition, adapting the ceremonial part to our own faith and style.

We invited close friends and family to the evening, asking our parents to prepare a blessing and inviting friends in our community to do the same. Our home projects lurched into overdrive over the summer to finish painting the house and clearing the debris from the trees that came down this summer. Mark built tables for the driveway, and my parents came to help hang lights and fill the garden beds and window boxes my father made. My brother smoked brisket and several friends from our community brought sides and helped cut the cake. I completely forgot to pull out my camera, meaning I didn’t take a single photo, so I feel particularly thankful for these two images above that my sister took before everyone arrived, for the phone images friends and family have shared, and for the video my brother-in-law put together below.

I’ve often remarked that the longer I parent the less confident I feel as a parent. Perhaps it is age and wisdom, or simply the accumulation of small failures over thirteen years. What life has taught me so far is that grace and gentleness is necessary for everyone to give and receive, and also that perfection, whether in aesthetics or behavior, is an empty goal. Life is valuable because of the connection we have to others, both inside and outside of our family, both in giving and receiving. Although Liam directly received so many beautiful and encouraging words that night, Mark and I feel we quite possibly received the most. Our hearts feel weighted with gratitude by the ways those we are connected to loved on our son and welcomed him into his young adult years. Here’s a snippet of the evening below, including bits of the letters each member of our family wrote to Liam. We hope you enjoy.

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  1. Truly inspirational. God bless you for the way you have raised your children and may He be blessed as many of us are inspired to bless our families in this powerful way.

  2. You are such a great family! Thank you for your inspiration and these tears of joy.

  3. Wow. Crying so many tears at watching this beautiful celebration and listening to the words of blessing. What a joy and rich heritage you’re gifting your children!

  4. What a truly special and meaningful celebration, Bethany! I love the idea of this. Everyone wrote such beautiful letters of tribute and encouragement. I’m sure it will be an evening he will treasure for many years to come. Thank you for sharing with us all. xo

    1. Author

      There were many more shared with him that night, and the details of our own, but we opted to keep some of that for ourselves. Wink. Also, it would have been forever long. Haha! Thank you so much, Emily!

  5. So thankful you shared this. What a gift, to your son and his siblings, to your family and friends, and to us. So thankful God uses others to spur us on toward more intentional parenting, and to model celebrating and speaking life and truth into our children. What a gift!

    1. Author

      I’m learning more all the time. Parenting is hard, and it’s so good to open our lives to one another, to help on this journey.

  6. Tears. Your husband gave such a great word. And what a wonderful tradition. I am so blessed by your family and your commitment to the Word and intentionally. Thank you for going before us and providing inspiration.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Katie. We don’t always know where we’re going or what we’re doing, but I’m learning to share the journey more openly all the time. Your words are a deep encouragement. Warmest to you. xx

  7. I am crying tears over how beautiful that was. My family actually did something similar for my brother and I, and to this day, that special weekend stands out to me as something special, to be cherished. Congratulations to your son! What a blessing this memory will be.

    1. Author

      How very special, Angela, and such a huge encouragement in our new journey. Thank you for sharing.

  8. So beautiful…thank you for sharing..what a wonderful memory to have in tough times.

  9. I cried my eyes out this morning thanking God for the legacy of such great parents that you two are. Liam will continue to shine and soar.
    Very proud of him.
    Sorry we couldn’t be there.

    1. Author

      Thank you both! We missed having you here, but we’re so thrilled for your next adventures, too. Text pictures! xx

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  11. tears, many tears. What a great gift and a heritage in the Lord Liam is blessed with! Would have given anything to be there that night with you guys. Thank you for putting that on so well and giving me an example to strive for… 6 years to go!!

  12. Yes, tears! The seriously glad kind! You pave the way again:) I’ve always imagined doing something similar at that teen threshold. ❤️

  13. I just balled my eyes out! This is so so beautiful! What a great video to keep!!!!!

    1. Author

      I remember when he reached the toddler years hearing all of the foreboding warnings from more experienced parents. There were hard days and good days, and of course the extremes when I felt an utter loss of what to do. i imagine some bit of that is coming again, but I hate the idea of dreading one period over the other. I’d rather move into them, knowing they will be good, whatever the circumstance.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much, Rachel. It was such a terrific evening, everything we had hoped and far more.

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