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Coming of Age Ceremonies
We have decided that a traditional bat-mitzvah is not for us (or our daughter) but would like to do something to honor her at a time when her friends are ''coming of age.''
I have a vague idea of wanting to expose my kid to various forms of spirituality and wisdom, and to the lives of notable menches so that if and when she develops a curiosity of her own, she will have a frame of reference.
I am curious to know what others have done, and whether there are groups designed for kids/girls like mine. jessica
A couple of books: ''Circle Round'' by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill has material about youth rites of passage. ''Deeply Into the Bone: Re-inventing Rites of Passage'' by Ronald Grimes gives some cross-cultural comparison.
Some ideas that come to mind for me: If you have a friend who is a spiritual type, grounded, and trustworthy, you could ask them to be a mentor to your daughter during this process and to help you design a coming of age ritual for your daughter. Teens often appreciate having a non-parental adult involved in the process. Your daughter herself should be part of the process too - you could ask her what she feels are the important elements of coming of age. Could she come up with a special project to do, culminating in a ritual? For example, depending on what you and she feel is important, the special project could be: learning about different religious traditions and attending some ceremonies of different religions; or interviewing family and friends about their heroes and who has inspired them; or doing research on a particular historical ''mensch'' who inspires her. Culmination could be a ritual with close family and friends in which she could share some of what she's been learning and also have a transitional ritual honoring and celebrating her change into a young woman.
Identify what will change about her relationship to you/ her place in the family. What special privileges and/or responsibilities will she have now she is being identified as a young woman? Make this really explicit and clear so that she really experiences things as being different after the ritual. Wishing you well on this journey
This year, we have revived and refined our tradition of the Coming of Age program. The program lasts at least one year (there's a sort of warm up year if you start early enough), and includes monthly meetings for the kids to learn about and discuss ten values: Scriptural Literacy (Torah, New Test., Tao de Ching and others); Values Clarification; Peer Fellowship; Inter-religious Exposure; Torchbearer Concept; Inter-generational Engagement; Sensitivity to Social Concerns; Music; Experiences of Awe, Mystery, Wonder; and Leadership Opportunities.
You do not have to be a member of Northbrae to have your kids participate, but you do need to commit to the process.
There are some wonderful kids at Northbrae, and we were thrilled to see our first class of teens deepen their spirituality, integrity, and confidence through their Coming of Age year. I urge you to call Dianne, the Church Administrator, for more information. 526-3805 www.northbrae.org Carolyn West, Northbrae Storyteller
Here are some on-line resources that might be useful in helping you design something of your own for your daughter. Good luck and Mazel Tov!
http://www.uua.org/worship/holidays/174646.shtml UU Dad
It's wonderful that you want to mark your child's development in some way and that you aren't hung up on the party, as so many seem to be. As evidence of that, google ''faux mitzvah'' and prepare to be aghast. The truth is that a bar or bat mitzvah spends a tremendous amount of time studying, not just for that day, but for every day that will follow. They have to learn a significant number of prayers in a foreign language, and in many communities, two different musical ''systems.'' They also have to write a thoughtful piece of literary criticism (in effect) and deliver it as a public speech. Many children also choose to do a ''bar/bat mitzvah social action project'' -- raising funds or volunteering in some capacity that is meaningful to them. And quite a few also spend time with seniors (Holocaust survivors) learning about their lives and experience. All of this while doing school work, sports, music, and cleaning their rooms. It's a huge accomplishment, and there's a lot of support from the community along the way.
Since you're going it alone and not entering into a community, maybe your daughter would want to take the ''social action'' piece of what I described and do that on a larger scale. So, let's say that a bat mitzvah kid chose, in addition to everything else, to volunteer in a soup kitchen. Your daughter could do that AND work at the Food Bank AND train for a kids triathalon while lining up sponsors to donate to some charity you like for every mile she logs. What I'm saying, in effect, is that you could expend the same effort, but direct it differently. Then, if you also decide to have a party, she could give a talk about the projects she undertook and why, and what she learned about other people and herself in the process. It wouldn't be a Jewish ritual and you shouldn't call it a Bat Mitzvah (which is to a community as a fish is to water), but it could be very meaningful for her and your family. Good luck! Eric
My son will be turning 13 later this year. He has been invited to two bar mitzvahs. It had me thinking... about us not being Jewish and not having a spiritual, cultural, tradition rooted in history and community to acknowledge this passing... and how sad that is. I'm wondering if other parents have created their own coming of age ceremonies and would be willing to share their experiences or ideas for this. We have about 8 months and I like the idea of preparing him for something special...not the usual pizza party... I'd love to hear from other parents. K.
This all was very simple, yet out of the ordinary for the family. It will be our daughter's choice as to whether or not she will carry forward 'the tradition' if/when she has a daughter coming of age. high on celebrating coming of age
My uncle is wanting to find what different customs there are in different countries for a young man coming into manhood as my cousin is turning 13 in a few weeks. Any recommendations or tips regarding this would be appreciated! Tamara
After I recommended the book, "The Circle of Life: Rituals from the Human Family Album," I paged through it again. It had been some years since I had looked at it. I realized that some of the pictures were quite graphic. By this I mean that they show pictures of some rituals that we in our culture might find shocking, not that there are explicit body parts shown. There is a picture, for instance, of a teen undergoing the ritual of female circumcision. No explicit view of her genitals, but a VERY clear view of the expression on her face. I still think it is a great book. But I would consider it more of an anthropological piece, rather than as something to hand over to a teen unsupervised. Dawn
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