Yes, we can plan the theme, the meals, the party favors, purchase clothes, review the D’var Torah and the prayers and make sure they practice their portion. But can we be prepared for that moment of their congregational debut? When our own kids stepped on that bima and lead the congregation in reciting prayers, I had a glimpse of their separateness, of the adults they will become. As a parent, you sit in the pews and have to let go. You cannot step up on the bima with your child, nor can you whisper the correct Hebrew pronunciation to them, or even hold their hand to bolster their confidence.
During their first teen year, a most awkward time for many, our children are asked to study and memorize a foreign language, perform in front of an audience and to analyze and present a D’var Torah. Within the embrace of our Jewish community and tradition, the process asks our kids to stretch and reach for who they can become. It helps them to see and experience it, whether they (or we) realize it at the time. It is that which remains with me, that window into their individual growth and path. I have seen it with my own kids, friends’ children and other synagogue members as well. Whether your child is introverted and quiet or exuberant and outgoing, mastered the requirements easily or faced challenges – the growth does happen. We can witness and nurture it – if we are attentive.
So, plan according to your wishes and wallet, but remember that paper invitations get thrown out, food gets consumed and forgotten and the balloons and flowers will be tossed out. What will endure are the growth and the life lessons that we share as a family. It’s up to you to decide what those might be.