I have figured it out – at last. The question so many bar and bat mitzvah kids ask somewhat rhetorically on the bimah… “why are my parents reciting ‘baruch sheptarani’ now, instead of in a few years, when I actually reach an age when I will, in fact, be capable of taking care of myself?”
(background: “baruch sheptarani mei’ansho shel zeh” is the bracha traditionally recited by parents when a boy becomes a bar mitzvah at age 13: it means “blessed is the one who has freed me from [responsibility for punishing] this man.”)
The answer: if you tried to do it when they were 16 or 17, if you tried to actually create a meaningful ritual involving children of that age, children so near the cusp of adulthood that it aches and tugs at them every single day – they’d tell you to get lost. Only they wouldn’t say it so nicely.
They would tell you that if you were even thinking about involving them in a ritual of ANY kind, let alone something so incomprehensibly stupid as a ritual grounded in Jewish tradition, decreed by rabbis, involving historical precedent, responsibility, punishment… well, they see no reason why they need to participate. And you’d better not blog about it, either.