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  • Holly Blum, The Word Whisperer

Three Things To Avoid In Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah Speech When You’re The Parent

Parenting is tough work. Oftentimes, your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah can be just as much a celebration of your child as it is your surviving the first 13 years of parenthood. It’s natural to want to kvell about your child and give him/her some bits of sage advice for the future. Maybe you even want to give yourself a few extra pats on the back for a job well done in the parenting department. But when it’s time for you to pay tribute to your child, whether on the bima or during the party, here are three things you want to avoid:

1. The laundry list.

Yes, your family and friends are happy to celebrate this simcha with you, but nobody wants to listen to you list off the 15-20 adjectives that best describe your child. It may be true that Joshua is caring, compassionate, loyal and trustworthy, but those types of adjectives can sound generic after awhile. Instead, think of 2-3 stories that make these character traits come alive. Your guests (and your child) are much more likely to remember a funny or heartwarming story than a laundry list found in the thesaurus.

2. The stand-up routine.

Parents, especially fathers, can feel pressure to turn their speech into a comedy show. There’s often a misconception that guests need to be laughing uncontrollably for the speech to hit its mark. As a result, inside jokes and embarrassing stories can become the focal point. Remember that your job as the parent is to cast your child in the best light possible. Chances are that you’re not a stand-up comedian, so ditch the one-liners and celebrate what makes your child unique. Appropriate jesting is certainly okay in moderation, but make sure it’s balanced with some heartfelt sentiment.

3. The night before cram session.

Remember those last minute cram sessions the night before a big exam? Chances are that you either procrastinated getting down to business or you felt overwhelmed by the material. Parents have a tendency to do this when faced with the prospect of writing a speech in honor of their child. The problem is that speeches written the night before the big event are usually the ones that fall flat. Why? Waiting until the last minute doesn’t give you time to carefully think about what you want to say, let alone make edits or rehearse. Start the process at least one month before the celebration. Having time to re-work and practice will leave you feeling more polished and confident in what you’re planning to say.

There are only a finite number of times in life when you can sing your child’s praises in front of a loving audience, so take advantage of this moment. Use it to honor your child, celebrate parenthood and make your guests laugh and cry. If you’re still feeling stuck, feel free to reach out for guidance. And if not, have fun with it. Do your child proud!

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