Home October 2011 Kids Konnection

Kids Konnection

One week ago we celebrated the B’nai Mitzvah of our twins.  Words cannot express how spectacular the entire weekend was, how blessed we felt with so many family members and friends present and how full our hearts were with joy, happiness and pride.  During his “charge,” after their Torah, Haftorah and speeches, our rabbi said to Jacob and Michela that it was his hope that they would continue in their Jewish studies/involvement, that they would follow their passions/dreams and that their mother would write a column about their B’nai Mitzvah and mention Shir Ha-Ma’alot!  While we all laughed, I already knew that it would, of course, be the topic of my next column, being one of the three most important Jewish events in our lives (following only our wedding and older son’s Bar Mitzvah) and having consumed every waking (and some sleeping) moments for at least three months.  What else would I write about following this momentous weekend?
I have so much to say that I could write an entire book about it – and actually think that I’m going to do that!  There’s much more than I can put in a 1000-word column, so I’ll just offer some reflections.  If you have specific questions about the nuts and bolts of all the details, please feel free to email me at bboarnet@cox.net.
Don’t be afraid to assert yourself and ask for what you want to make all aspects of your special occasion what you want it to be.  I’ve heard from many that they weren’t happy with something but went along with it because “that’s just the way it is done” or they didn’t realize what they wanted could be a possibility.  A Bar/Bat Mitzvah only happens once and when it is over, there is no going back to change it.  There were certain things that were very important to us, and we made sure to ask for what we wanted even if it was outside of the norm.  In our case, Rabbi Steinberg and Cantor Shikler at SHM were wonderful and more than willing to accommodate our requests and let us customize our service, but if they hadn’t, we would have persisted.  It was very important to us that our children each have their own separate Torah portions and each have their own speech, even though at our temple, twins usually share those things.  At our party venue, we were not afraid to ask that certain things be included in our basic price and that things be done a specific way.  In this economy, we found that the venue and all vendors were more than willing to negotiate to have our business and we felt much better about paying the money, because we knew we were getting exactly what we wanted.
Involve as many of your extended family members as possible. Although adding a couple of extra prayers/readings and having very large groups of people go up for aliyot made the service a little longer, it was very special to us that so many relatives participated, and they also enjoyed being an integral part.  We loved every second of the service, as did all of our guests, many of whom remarked that our service was so participatory, warm and fun that they all felt like part of the family just by being there.  Marlon’s parents, my mom and Marlon’s grandmother (who, at 95, traveled all the way from Texas to be here!) wanted to say a few words to Jacob and Michela.  While that’s not the norm to have “grandparent speeches” or special prayers, we found a way to work these into the service, and the memory that Michela and Jacob will have of what was said to them will last their entire lifetime.  The “choreography” involved in getting my 87-year-old mother and Marlon’s 95-year-old grandmother up on the bima was challenging and amusing, but it was charming, endearing and special to have them be able to participate.  Our children only have three first cousins, and they are very close.  We wanted them to participate in a significant way, so we drafted a short Havdallah service for the six kids to do together at the party.  Our goal wasn’t to have a perfectly executed Havdallah service, but, rather, to have them be meaningfully involved, and it was absolutely perfect, adding an extra element of Judaism and such a special way for them to participate.  Ten-year-old Ian doing all the Hebrew, and fifteen-year-old Harrison whispering the lines to five-year-old Daniel and him repeating them, then looking to Harrison to make sure he said it right, was priceless.
Do as much as you can yourself.  Our event was labor-intensive from start to finish, and we put in at least a thousand hours of work, but it was a true labor of love, and we were so proud that we made the invitations, centerpieces, decorations and placecards.  Not only did we save a lot of money; we also preferred the message it sent to our guests and, especially, our children that we could have all of the “elements” of the biggest and best B’nai Mitzvah without it being over-the-top outrageous.
Once the weekend arrives, put planning and stressing aside, and don’t worry about the details.  Enjoy every second.  No event is perfect, and something WILL likely go wrong.  Don’t spend even a millisecond worrying about that; just focus on all the things that are going right.  For our large event, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but I was determined that we would focus on the meaning of the day and on enjoying everything and being with our family and friends.  We succeeded in being completely calm and “in the moment” and had a fabulous time.  The couple of things that were “less than perfect” did not matter a single bit, and September 3, 2011, ranks up there with April 11, 2009, and July 3, 1994, as being one of the best days of our lives.

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