Growing Up, Bnei Akiva Style

I remember the first day that I sent Matan to daycare. He was three months old, and I couldn’t believe that I had to ask someone else how much he had had to drink, when he had napped, and if he had smiled. How could I not be monitoring those things myself all day long? Such, as many of you know, is the life of a working mom.

And of course, from that time on, I’ve let go little by little of my control and monitoring over him. When he left the Yishuv to go to kindergarten in Efrat, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. With Matan commuting on a bus each day to and from school, I couldn’t pop my head in each morning to say hi to the teacher, or check in the afternoon to see how he was doing.

Every parent knows this feeling…there are so many baby steps along the way as we watch our children grow up and as we have a little bit less to do with the intricate details of their lives.

So, after five years of waiting since we made aliyah, Matan has finally joined Bnei Akiva. Bnei Akiva is one of the national youth movements here in Israel. It’s been around since the 1920s. The youth movements are so strong in Israel that the entire country lets the kids out of school early on Tuesday afternoons for afternoon youth movement activities. I kid you not. Every Tuesday afternoon, the kids go to their clubhouse of sorts for Bnei Akiva (or for another youth movement in other areas of the country). Every Shabbat, they also get together with their group. And, a few times during the year they go on campouts and have special activities around Israel. They have a group leader who plans their meetings and they do….well…I don’t really know what they do yet since we’ve just started!

Bnei Akiva starts only in fourth grade, so we’ve been waiting all this time for Matan to be old enough. Now that he is, we feel strange as we’ve reached another milestone. During the first month of the Bnei Akiva year (that’s now) they are very busy getting their room ready in the clubhouse and practicing for a big ceremony. So, Matan is going almost every other night at about 5 pm until bedtime to hang out up the street.

A few days ago, when Matan was out, yet again, Josh turned to me and said, “You know, I really miss Matan! We waited all this time for him to be old enough for Bnei Akiva, and now it’s really weird that he’s not home.” And it is! Yesterday, Matan went home from school with a friend, then went to the weekly class the Rabbi gives, then went to Bnei Akiva, and finally came home after I was already out at dinner with friends. This morning, when we saw him, I couldn’t believe that it had been 24 hours since I’d last seen him! And it reminded me of those first few hours when I dropped him at the babysitter 9 plus years ago.

And so begins another stage in Matan’s maturation – and in our acceptance of him as a kid who’s getting older and becoming more independent each day.

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