Because we are not of the Jewish faith wherein a 13-year-old boy is ushered into adulthood with a Bar Mitzvah; nor living in a remote village in Africa where the same boy might be sent into the jungle to kill a tiger and return a man; because we are a not-very-religious family living a not-very-ritualistic life in Las Vegas, we had no ceremonial rite of passage to offer Hollywood when he became a teenager, last June. In fact, it wasn't something Balthazar and I even thought about.
What we did think about, and talk about at length, was the angst that Hollywood was suddenly exhibiting, and the volatility of his disposition, how he would laugh and cry, and yell, and scream all within the same hour, over virtually nothing.
"Man up," Balthazar would tell him, and he complained of the stuffed toys Hollywood still had on his bed, as well as the cell phone bills he was racking up; I complained of the action figures and young boy's toys he refused to give up, so that there was no feasible way to organize his bedroom; and the long hours he spent video chatting his friends from within the chaos, his bedroom door firmly shutting us out. We had these complaints and concerns, but we didn't see it clearly--the big picture: the identity crisis our son was having.
It wasn't until I caught a glance of his book shelf, one day, where several Dr. Suess books were interspersed with various young adult reads, that it occurred to me that Hollywood was struggling with this transition from boy to man, and why wouldn't he be? There was no line, no marker, to indicate where his childhood self should stop and his adult self should start.
So, of course, he was confused and frightened, and uncertain of how to express this anxiety he was feeling. With the tears of child? Or the angry shouts of a man?
So we created our own sort of ceremony, although it wasn't so ceremonial as it was affirming.
First we emptied Hollywood's room of every single item within.
Then we painted it in mature and masculine shades of blue. We bought furnishings to match.
We removed the word "boy" from our vocabulary, replacing it with son, and teen, and young man
Then Hollywood spent a week sorting through his things, deciding what he wanted to bring back into his new young man's room--and suddenly he had no problem relinquishing his action figures, and his stuffed toys, the paraphernalia of his boyhood.
He was ready.
That was almost two months ago. Since then his angst has subsided, and his little boy tears have long since been wiped away.
He holds his head a little higher. His shoulders back a little farther back.
He was so ready.