Why Are People Commenting On My Child’s Bat Mitzvah

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Dear Miriam, 

My daughter is an only child, and we are planning for her bat mitzvah celebration later this spring. Almost every time I mention something about the planning to a friend or acquaintance, I hear some version of, “You only care this much because you’re only going to do this once.” How should I respond to these rude and insensitive comments about having an only child? 


Only it’s none of your business


Dear Only,

It is a universal truth of unfortunate proportions that most people are just looking for something to say to fill the air. I myself participated in a conversation last week where the small talk was so small that I said afterward that the dialogue could have been written by ChatGPT without my needing to participate at all. 

When the sheer volume of small talk reaches certain levels, it’s inevitable that some of the chatter will turn out to be offensive or irrelevant or rude. This inevitability doesn’t excuse the rudeness people have displayed to you during bat mitzvah planning, but it does put it in the context of all of the awkwardness inherent in human interactions.

You’ll benefit from coming up with stock answers to this particular line of rude comment. I recommend practicing a few versions to see what you can actually imagine saying out loud, what looks good in email vs text, how you want to respond to someone older than you or younger than you, to family vs acquaintances, and so on. I’d start with some variation on, “I’m really looking forward to planning a meaningful celebration for my daughter and my family,” which is direct on the one hand and doesn’t appear defensive or critical on the other hand. If you prefer to be more specific, you could try, “This has nothing to do with my only having one child, and your comment takes away from the importance of this event for my family.”

You could also simply say, “Please don’t say that,” or, “I don’t appreciate that comment,” which could be applicable to comments on anything from having an only child to the pattern on the bat mitzvah kippot to the food served at the party. These decisions are your family’s only, and yet since you know the comments will continue – because it is simply in people’s nature to say something – the best you can do is be prepared and confident in your own response. Mazel tov on the celebration. I hope it’s wonderful!

Be well,