We have been inaugurated into the world of bar and bat mitzvahs. I’ve resisted the push, to be fair, but we’re there nonetheless.
When Asher hit 4th grade, I got the email I didn’t know was coming, about The List. That’s a catalog of dates in the 7th grade when other kids in his middle school, which he was not in when I received the email remember, booked their bar or bat mitzvah.
The idea of The List is to make it nice and fair with plenty of advance notice so you don’t mistakenly book your kid’s celebration on the same day and time as a friend of his. Very fair. Very organized. Very community-focused.
Some friends and acquaintances booked their child’s date when he or she turned 9 – ample notice and lots of time to plan.
You know, we grow up in certain traditions and repeat them with our kids. Yes, they’re meaningful, and yes it’s expected, but we do it for many reasons, hopefully including some that are specific to this generation and this time around.
Many follow trends set by the community and try to meet expectations that kids (and parents) have about what makes a good celebration. That’s called peer pressure and it’s nothing new. We may not even notice that we subscribe to it. We all want to fit in. We wall want to blend.
But as is my wont, what if I suggest a different path?
What if – brazen idea – we looked at this notion of a coming-of-age in our religious tradition (whatever religious tradition you subscribe to) and said, how can I make this meaningful to my family?
Even better…what if we asked the kid in question whose coming-of-age we’re blowing so much cash on, what would make it special for HIM?
As you might expect, I’m doing it different than the rest. I have two kids a year and a half apart in age, so I am combining their celebrations and momentous occasions into one shared event. We are going to Israel to signify this coming-of-age as Jews in the Holy Land, doing the religious ceremony at a place in Jerusalem of utmost significance (the Western Wall) and then touring this country that is a home to every Jew on the planet.
And then, back here, we will have a party so they can invite their friends and we can invite ours.
At this point in time, I don’t think our party will look the same as the rest – but peer pressure could kick in for my kids. You never know.
I’m willing to bet that it won’t. (Anyone want to take that bet?) Asher and Eliana are really unique, poised, march-to-their-own-tune kids. I can picture the kind of party they would want.
Asher: Only the finest food from the finest sources, very simple menu, music in the range of ’50s classics. Very dressy. Fedoras for everyone. Books on the table. Books everywhere. Books as favors.
Eliana: Fine china, gourmet food, fancy clothes, hair and makeup and nails done beforehand. Not sure about the dancing or music. Or maybe she’ll want a tent in a beautiful yard and desserts and appetizers only. No spotlight on her. She likes to play it low and cool.
I’m going to honor their preferences. After all, it’s about them, not me. And I want it to be truly significant so that it means something more than just a party because everyone else has one.
Yes, they’re supposed to honor their parents, according to our religious tradition. But in this case, I think I’m going to flip it and honor my kids.