Taking your Place25 May 2015
For our son's Confirmation yesterday I gave a toast that went quite well. It sums up pretty well how I feel right now about our son and parenting, so I've modified it a bit and posted it. I wrote it in English so my mother could follow along, but I gave it in German, translating on my feet.
I'd like to take this chance to talk directly to you, my son. This is one of the few chances that I know you'll be listening. At church the pastor talked about how Confirmation is a decision, an active decision, that you make. It is also an positive action... you are finding and taking your place.
You are of course taking your place in the church. We were all just there, of course. The church is a human institution, of course, it is not perfect. But the humans in the church usually do the best they can. And the church has been around a couple of thousand years... if you have a question or a problem, chances are someone has come to the church with that before and it can give you advice.
Confirmation is also a family event. They have all come to celebrate not so much because they are interested in your faith but because you are taking your place in your family. Confirmation has played a role in both our families, in Germany and in the US, and is something that binds them both. It is a family milestone, a sign of a new generation, and time and life moves on as it always has. Time only moves in one direction and at one speed. It always gets to its destination, even when we want to take detours.
In rural Germany Confirmation is also a community event, much more so than in the US. It is the line you cross to become an adult. For your parents our town is a place we moved to, but for you it is where you grew up, your home, your Heimat. And now you will be taking your place in your community. You will no longer sing for candy on Pentecost, but plant trees with the young men. Later you can graduate from the youth fire dept to take responsibility for your community with the active fire dept. A hometown is something precious. A place where you can put down roots, find your peace, a place to belong. Your older relatives can tell what it is like to lose your hometown, your Heimat. It is something to be cherished in your heart.
Finally, you are taking your place in world. Unlike in our town, in reality becoming an adult is not a solid line to be crossed. It's a process that you have now started, and maybe never ends, and process that you are now taking over for yourself. For your parents it means that we have taught you pretty much even thing we can, we cannot "raise" you anymore. We can't tell you anything anymore, as you remind us when we try to say something you disagree with. We have to start letting go, to stop setting rules and instead give advice and let you make your own mistakes. We are very happy and very proud for what you are and what you will become. I am certain that you have the qualities for success, in every sense of the word. Your self-confidence, your sense of fairness, your intelligence and stubbornness... a positive stubbornness, I should point out. It's OK to dream big, that's the only way big dreams can come true, just have a flight plan filed, just in case. As pilots say, flying is the second most exciting thing in life. The most exciting thing is landing.
Today is your day. Cheers, Prost, auf Dich!