Today my first child turned 14.
I often tell Jacob — in quiet whispers so his brothers won’t hear– that he’ll always have an edge on cool because he was born in New York City, while they were born in suburban Jersey. But there are many more reasons why he’s one of the coolest cats I know.
Last year, I wrote a speech to give at his bar mitzvah, which sums up his personality, and what it’s like to parent him. It’s often challenging, but in the best way. I’m sharing the speech with you today to celebrate my baby growing up.
It’s a great day and we are so proud of Jacob. But his performance on the bimah today is no surprise to (Wilson) and me.
Jacob was an ideal first child. He arrived a day early, cried very little, and smiled all the time. As a baby he was already showing traits of his personality: smart, good-natured, curious, and eager to please. As a toddler he got a lot of attention for his curly blond mop of hair, and he soaked it in.
He was an easy baby because he could roll with anything: staying up late at night, trying new foods, and engaging all the adults around him. All of our family and many of our friends here tonight have known him since he was born and remember him as happy, chatty, and completely unintimidated by grownups.
His friends know now what we saw even as a toddler and little boy—he has superior social skills and can get just about anyone to do just about anything if he sets his mind to it.
He is famous for texting me after school asking me to go to the park:
Mom, can I play?
Then a barrage of backup texts……
I did all my homework, I cleaned my room last night, and I will be home by 5 because I know I have to eat and change for soccer practice. Please?
Then he always completes the move with:
I love you mom.
Damn, he’s good.
I sometimes fall under his spell, and often have to remind myself that I’m the parent and know what’s best for him.
As he‘s grown up there are things he didn’t always want to do and we had to push him along.
When his homework was difficult or he had a long-term project he was avoiding I would nag him to get it done. He’d ask why he had to do it and my standard answer became “It’s my job to make you the best Jacob Lefferts you can be. It’s not always easy or fun, but that’s my job.”
It was a tough one to argue.
Although he has always been a terrific, committed athlete, there were times when he didn’t always want to go to baseball, basketball, or soccer practice. I would tell him that practice is what makes you better, and that would make him the best Jacob Lefferts he could be.
When I would suggest we take a break from the 24/7 sports mania that goes on at our house to walk around the city or visit a museum, Jacob usually resisted. “Why do we have to, mom?”
Because I want you to be a well-rounded person with exposure to culture and beauty. It’s part of making you the best Jacob Lefferts you can be.
There were eye-rolls and grunts. But to his credit, he would always admit in the car home that that wasn’t so bad after all.
It may surprise you to know that –despite his stellar torah reading today—Jacob did not always enjoy going to Hebrew School. It often got in the way of playing with friends after school or Saturday night sleepovers. He would get frustrated and beg me to skip it, questioning “WHY? Why do I have to go?”
And I would tell him it was all part of making him the best Jacob Lefferts he could be.
Today, Jacob there’s no more arguing or negotiation. You studied and worked hard at your Hebrew. You stayed committed to volunteering with the kids at the Network in Newark once a week. You respect your parents and love your brothers. You’re a wonderful student and a good friend.
We may have nudged you along, but you did that. You have become all those things on your own.
And today, you are the best Jacob Lefferts you can be. We love you.
Happy Birthday to my baby boy, still the best Jacob Lefferts he can be!