Congratulations, you made it! You survived the insanity that is known as Tennis Ladder Year. There should be a trophy of some sort- you certainly deserve it.
But before you can officially exhale, a nice big envelope arrives in the mail addressed to your child. Bar Mitzvah year is knocking on your door. I’d tell you not to answer but if you live on the North Shore of Long Island, you don’t really have a choice.
- Some lucky parent back in 4th grade got the job of organizing a list that circulates throughout the grade so you can pick your child’s date three years later
- There are anywhere from one to three Bar/Bat Mitzvahs (more commonly known as BMs) on any given weekend from May of 6th grade to November of 8th grade
- Overlapping dates are a tough; there will be some but most parents try to switch dates especially if the kids are in the same friend group
- Your child will be expected to go to the services of close friends even if they are during school hours (a parent who is going to the service will sign out a group of kids from school and take them to the temple and then bring them back to school)
Getting Ready (A Girl Mom’s Perspective)
If you have a daughter, I am so, so sorry.
You will need to buy more dresses than you could have imagined. Dresses for the services, dresses for day BMs and dresses for night BMs. Need I remind you shopping with a twelve or thirteen year old girl is hell. You will wonder what you did in a past life to deserve this kind of torture. Either they hate the kids department dresses they fit into or you hate the junior department dresses they fit into. There will be tears, yours and hers. You will swear up and down your daughter will not wear four inch heels or skin tight dresses. You most likely will cave at some point from sheer exhaustion.
The same goes for make-up and hair. I mistakingly thought twelve and thirteen year old girls don’t wear much makeup besides maybe some lip gloss or mascara. Silly me. I soon learned that many girls have their makeup and hair professionally done for these parties. Our local salons are filled with Tweens on Fridays and Saturdays getting blowouts for BMs. If you choose to say no to this as I did, be prepared from lots of pouting.
Nine times out of ten your Tennis Ladder carpool turns in to your BM carpool. Dates are organized on an app such as Family Wall so parents in the carpool can sign up for dates to drive. When it is your turn to drive, the girls will most likely want to get ready together so most will get dropped off at your house around 5. You should them plan on ordering dinner because most kids don’t eat at the BMs (yes, you read that right- all that amazing food- sigh) You will then drive your carpool to the party and pick up, usually around midnight.
- Regular gifts (averages)- $18 if you are declining, $36 for random friends, $54 for close friends, $72 for camp friends. The check is sent back with the RSVP card. (Remember, 1-3 a weekend for over a year!!!)
- B’nai Mitzvah – DOUBLE ($36 each kid – two separate checks if kid going, family of 3, $300 each (so yes a total of $600), family of 4, $400 each, family of 5, $500 each, ETC)
- Family Gifts- Your family was invited- yay! Get your wallet ready- here is what is suggested (don’t shoot the messenger; personally, I give what I can) taken from Lulu & Lattes
-You and your spouse with 1 kid – $318, $354, $372, $400 (depending on level of friendship)
-You and your spouse with 2 kids – $400-$500
-You and your spouse with 3 kids – $500
-4+ kids (good luck, maybe try not to get invited…just kidding) $500+
-Your BFF – $418-518 (with your family)
- Personalized Gifts- This is where your child makes a personal gift for the BM child. This may be a blanket, pillow or phone case with photos from a site such as Shutterfly or a handmade gift such as a wooden picture frame with pictures glued to it. Guests present these gifts to the BM child on camera so you can see how important making a personal gift can be.
- Group Gifts- This is where a close friend hosts a group of kids over to work on a group gift for the BM child. Each child brings lots of pics and the host provides snacks. They may decorate a book shelf or a mini-fridge or make a scrapbook***. This is also presented at the BM so, again, getting in on the group gift is important too.
***The Scrapbook- this gift gets it own section. The idea is lovely; the process, not so much. One mother organizes a scrapbook for the BM child. This entails buying scrapbook pages, sending an email to all of the BM child’s friends’ moms, and leaving the pages for pick up outside your door. If you’re the mom in charge, you will need to also send additional reminders to pick up pages and then reminders to drop off pages and then you will need to organize said pages into a book. If your child is asked to make a page, and there can be as many as 3-4 a month, you will then need to pick up the page, upload pictures of your daughter and BM child to the drugstore to be printed, harass your child to complete the page, and then drop it back off.
- The Jewelry Gift- This is a new one! This is where close friends chip in $50 each to get a special jewelry gift for the BM girl. Gifts include Hermes cuffs, David Yurman rings and replica Van Clef necklaces (that still cost close to $500).
- Mitzvah Gift- As part of their BM, kids choose a charity, organization, or cause to work with. Sometimes it is volunteering their time, and other times it is raising money or collecting items. You may be asked to contribute towards their Mitzvah gift. If so, a donation of $36 is acceptable.
The swag is the stuff that the dancers throw out to the kids to keep them on the dance floor. Boring swag? The dance floor is likely to remain empty as kids would rather be on their phones. Some examples of good swag this year was Virtual Reality goggles, Fitbits, Beats, Ray Bans, jerseys, Kylie Lip Kits, blankets, sweatpants, and tank tops. Other notable swag this year has been custom air-brushed sneakers, custom air-brushed sweatpants, make-up personalized with the BM girl’s name and a lash bar (where girls could get fake lashes applied…not sure if that counts as swag but the girls certainly loved it!). When the lights go out for the “rave” portion of the night, sunglasses and glow in the dark rings, glasses and hats are passed out.
Socks play an important role at BMs- they are a must and have come to be expected. Because the girls are wearing heels they really have no business wearing, they can hardly walk, let alone dance. The moment the girls are done taking their pictures, the heels come off and the socks (given as a favor) go on. In lieu of socks this year, kids also received slides, flip flops, fuzzy slippers, and an Ugg-type boot at BMs.
The rest of the swag is waiting for the kids when they leave the party, most likely in a personalized bag of some type. 99% of the time it is a sweatshirt. The kids judge these sweatshirts on the softness and the design. It is a huge deal to wear these sweatshirts on the following Monday, so much that the schools have kindly asked on no less than ten occasions for students not wear them since it makes others who were not invited feel bad. Students (and parents) blatantly ignore this suggestion. If you do choose to follow it like I did, your child will be very upset with you because the BM child will likely be upset with them that they did not show up in the swag. Another battle you will fight and most likely lose.
BMs and Social Media
- Posting a pic of the invitation on Snapchat the day it is received is one of the ways kids show their love for the BM child, usually with a caption like “So sickkkkk! Can’t wait to rage, bestie! LYSMYDEK”
- Girls will do all sorts of countdowns for their friends (1 month, 1 week) on Instagram by posting a picture of the BM girl with a caption such as “1 week until we rage!”
- A good Geo Tag on Snapchat is a must
- Posting the entrance of the BM child on snapchat as their story is very popular and a way for kids show their friendship
- Girls try to get an alone picture of themselves with the BM girl to post on Instagram the next day
What Makes a Good BM (according to the kids)
In a nutshell, it’s the music, swag, and food at the end of the party.
One of the first decisions, after the date and location, is the entertainment. This includes the DJ, MC, and dancers. They really do set the tone for the party so it’s pretty important to get the right one. Dates are secured at least two years in advance.
The swag was mentioned above so now lets discuss the food at the end of the party. As people are exiting, there is usually food of some sort set up in the lobby or there are food trucks outside. Shake Shack burgers, McDonalds, pizza or a set up similar to a convenience store or bakery where kids can grad as much candy, donuts, bagels, and muffins that they’d like were popular choices this year. Since the kids didn’t each much earlier, this is when they go crazy. Plus, candy. Need I say, more?
I must also note what makes a BM bad for your child- you attending. When parents are invited and attend, both parents and children will stare at each other, praying that the other is not doing anything embarrassing. It’s OK for parents to dance, but not near the kids (basically kids are on one part of the dance floor or the stage and the adults are on the other). It’s OK for you to take a picture with your child in front of the step and repeat but really, no more. Try not draw attention to yourself- no one wants to be that parent.
Tips and Lessons Learned
- Decide before the first BM what your carpool will be doing for each other in terms of personal gifts, group gifts, and jewelry. Everyone should agree and be on the same page
- Decide what you will do for the few girls who are not having a BM (not jewish or taking a trip instead)
- Order dresses online from Bloomingdales and Nordstroms for your child to try on in the comfort of your home (good selection of dresses for services and great return policies)
- Check out stores such as Ruby and Jenna, Vanilla Sky and Ask Alice for reasonable party dresses
- Respond to RSVPs right away
- Buy BM cards, crafts from Michaels, and photo paper to have on hand
- It’s OK to say no to attending, especially when there are multiple BMs on a given weekend. I wish I would have realized this earlier- on a Sunday after 2-3 parties, the kids are EXHAUSTED.