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Let the Good Times Roll

Posted in: Blog by amy on May 26, 2012

The celebrations that accompany kids becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah are often considered to be unnecessary and excessive. Movies, Saturday Night Live skits and TV shows have all entertainingly mocked the idea of these parties that follow. In many cases, the parties are a bit over indulgent. It’s easy to judge from the outside as you look at the thousands of dollars that are spent on decor, photography, food and even hair and makeup! It’s as if these 13-year-olds (and their families) are walking down the red carpet. It is a bit humorous at times: A delicate, slightly awkward white girl is carried in on the shoulders of strong, African American dancers as she is introduced as the newest Bat Mitzvah girl. Then, she and her friends break into a night of Hip Hop dancing.

It’s excessive. It’s expensive. It’s wasteful.

But, it’s also a truckload of fun.

It’s memorable. It’s a celebration of something in life that is joyful. From the colorful boas people toss around their necks to the gangster hats and sunglasses that kids wear as they hop on stage to dance freely, the night is all about something that we don’t focus on enough: having fun and enjoying the moments. We spend so much money on the sad events in life, such as funerals, so why not throw a little cash at the celebratory times?

And, why not encourage our kids to party and simply have fun? As a parent, I know that my focus with Ben (my 13-year-old boy whose Bar Mitzvah was last weekend) has been to remind him to do his homework, to encourage him to study his Hebrew, to demand that he works hard, gets more sleep, eats more healthy foods, talks nicely to his sisters, etc.  It wasn’t until I focused on planning and executing this celebration that I realized how little time I spend encouraging my son to just have fun. Laughter, dancing, hanging with friends … That is where so much of the true meaning of life sneaks into our space. Those are the moments that we remember and cherish.

We don’t remember that test that we got a 92 percent on after a long, strenuous night of studying. Of course, the studying is important. I would never diminish the benefits, habits and necessity of good study skills, adequate sleep and healthy eating. However, my eyes are more open to the importance of stepping back and just having silly, light-up-glow-ring fun.

After five years of Hebrew school and countless hours of practice and work with tutors, Ben was ready to step up on the bimah to read out of the Torah. Ben later told me that as he stood on the bimah about to read his torah portion, he looked out at all of us in the synagogue. His eyes landed on my five-year-old nephew Jay (who traveled with his family from San Francisco to celebrate with us). Jay looked at Ben with a goofy, tongue-sticking-out-of-his-mouth look that Ben said enabled him to instantly relax and to feel happily confident.

These are the unplanned, beautiful, perfect moments that thousands of dollars and years of planning alone could not fabricate. The unexpected, authentic, pure moments. That is what these celebrations are all about … That is what life is all about.

I look back at the most memorable moments of the weekend and they were all the unplanned or unexpected ones. Nobody was talking about the quality of the invitation paper or the amount of giveaways on the dance floor or the presentation of the food. People were feeling the energy. They were dancing. They were laughing. They were watching Ben exude confidence and joy.

That is what matters. That is why we spend all of this money and time. We want to see our kids smile. We want to see them laugh. We want to see them dance and be silly and be free. Sure, we go a bit overboard in the whole process. But, if the outcome is a happy kid (or officially a young Jewish adult!), and the emphasis is on an exceptional celebration, then maybe we shouldn’t judge it all so harshly.

We certainly spend a disproportionate amount of time in life pushing our kids to work hard versus encouraging them to play hard. The B’nai Mitzvah celebration is a great reminder for us of how important it is to put our hearts, dollars, energy, love, time and effort into creating good times for our children and for ourselves. We all deserve to laugh, to dance and to don a pair of Elvis sunglasses while we hop on stage without a care in the world.

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2 Responses to “Let the Good Times Roll”

  1. Auntie Deni says:

    How true how true how true – love the perspective!!!

  2. amy says:

    And how great was that calming effect that Jay had on Ben!

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