13 Lessons I’ve Learned From My 13 Year Old

13 Lessons I Learned

Prologue: My 13 year old son was recently Bar-Mitzvah’ed.  At our temple, parents can give a short talk to their child before the main service begins. I’m sharing below the talk I gave to my son.


In honor of your 13 years of life, here are 13 life lessons I’ve learned from YOU!

  • Lesson #1: There’s beauty in the unknown. . .

When I first learned I was pregnant, I knew immediately. . . I was having a girl. I knew nothing about raising a little boy. Luckily you taught me what I needed (your brother filled in the gaps.) You are my lovely reminder that the universe often knows better than we do.

  • Lesson 2: Good boundaries are important.

While I was initially against door locks, after the umpteenth time your brother ran into your room and destroyed your lego creations, we gave in and installed a door lock.

Seeing how much you value your private time has given me a new perspective on prioritizing mine. I’m very respectful of how you balance time out in the world with relaxing at home.

  • Don’t just be the enthusiast, be the expert.

Whether it was Pokémon, filmmaking or Bar Mitzvah preparation– you fully immersed yourself in learning and practice. Through books, Internet research and YouTube – you’ve shown me what true mastery looks like.

  • Which leads to #4- YouTube.

Who knew how much free learning was there for the taking? After watching you learn magic, Minecraft and special effects, I, the vegetarian, cooked my first turkey courtesy of YouTube.

  • FIVE: Hold onto the rituals.

From our Hanukkah chocolate fountain, to Shabbat dinners and M&M cakes – your early love of tradition has taught me how it is the glue that binds our family, AND cements your Jewish identity.

Keep those rituals – and begin to build your own.

  • Lesson 6: You can meet screaming with calmness.

I can get frazzled as your mom – getting you out of the house or just raising a teen. My go-to is yelling. And your go-to is to get calm and rational. I admire your ability to not overreact to me, so I’m still trying to learn #6 – how one good yell does not necessarily deserve another.

Continue to cultivate your calm rationality.

  • And now the corollary – Unintentionally, you have taught me lesson number 7, that sometimes rationality is not enough.

You’re a born negotiator, willing to talk your Dad and I blue in the face when we’re “irrationally” denying your latest video game request. To your chagrin, I’ve learned sometimes intuition beats reason. Leave room for that too!

  • Number 8: The movies I saw as a kid are apparently no longer cool or amusing. . . oh well. . .
  • Lessons 9, 10 and 11.

Less is more. My jokes really aren’t that funny and be on time!

  • Lesson 12: It’s possible to skip dessert.

My usual motto is “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.” Your M-O is no dessert unless it’s amazing, and then, just a small piece. This is a revolutionary philosophy for me. You’re setting the bar high but I’m trying to learn.

  • Lesson 13 – At a moment like this, in front of our closest friends and family, witnessing all your hard work this past year, you have to stop for a moment and take in all the goodness.

Being your Mom for the past 13 years has given me more joy and gratitude than anything else.

I’ll end with my blessing for you. May you keep learning from everyone around you and continue to share your life lessons with all of us.

jo ilfeld with family

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Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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