When my three-year-old son, Lev, hears the word “birthday”, he says, “It’s MY birthday”. It feels a little bit mean to tell a small child that not only is it not his birthday, but it won’t be for a very long time, but I understand the reaction. Until fairly recently, I felt that the world revolved around my own birthday. I was always looking forward to the next celebration, barely pausing to let the current age sink in. If asked, “How old are you?” I often responded, “I’ll be ___ in March”. I might have even said that in April! I was clearly very future-oriented. My point of view has shifted quite a bit since becoming a parent. My birthday seems hardly significant compared to those of my children (or compared to Mothers’ Day!) and while not much thought has been given to birthday parties yet, I have found myself reflecting upon the past—looking at pictures of them from birth onward, remembering a favorite outfit or a funny facial expression—from a completely different lens.
I took an informal survey to see what some of my colleagues remembered about their 8th birthdays or the 8th birthdays of their children. I got some not-so-surprising answers: roller skating party (does that even exist today?), scavenger hunt, superhero theme, etc. One staff member recalled a McDonald’s birthday party during Pesach without cake and with hamburgers served without buns, and my sister remembered one too many birthdays being celebrated much later due to their coinciding with Yom Kippur. Personally, I have a vague recollection of a slumber party with a “late night” (probably 7:30 pm) trip to the ice cream parlor.
What is the significance of being eight? For some kids, eight might feel very big. Many eight-year-olds take a bus to school, ride a bike or swim unassisted. For some parents, however, eight might still feel very young, as their “baby” still needs help cutting up their food or may still crawl into their bed in the middle of the night.
Mayyim Hayyim is now eight. When compared to other organizations, eight might feel very young—like we’re still a “baby”. To others, however, eight might feel more grown up. Every day, week, and especially every year, we get smarter and better at what we do, creating a warm and welcoming space for people to immerse and mark transitions. Two weeks ago we celebrated 10,000 immersions. In eight years. That’s over 1200 immersions a year. I don’t know about you, but that feels pretty grown up to me! Happy birthday, Mayyim Hayyim!
Leah Hart Tennen, Mikveh Center Director, was eight a long time ago. Her older son, Lev, will be eight in five years and her younger son, Eli, will be eight in seven and a half years. She likes strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.