Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The speech for my Daughter's Bat Mitzvah

This past weekend was my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. A huge milestone and event, and one of the many, many excuses I've had for not posting anything here in months.

Writing my "dad" speech for the event was a pretty daunting process. As luck would have it searching for "bat mitzvah parent speech" on the Internet resulted in a wealth of ideas, suggestions, and quotes to steal, so I thought I would pay it forward and post mine as well. Enjoy.

Shabbat Shalom! Before I get into this, I want to welcome all our friends and family, especially those who've traveled from afar to experience this big event as well as to get a taste of that infamous Pittsburgh weather. For those of you in from the South, please feel free to take the humidity back with you when you leave.

You know, they say the only certain things in life are death and taxes. Well, I think we can add a couple of things to that list. First, it's an absolute certainty that, no matter how carefully you plan an event like this, sometimes things just don't work out as planned. As many of you know Natalie's grandmother has been sick the past few weeks, and unfortunately was not able to make the trip out here to see her granddaughter today. Mom, we wish you all the best and we know you're going to make a full recovery, ready to drive us all crazy again before we know it.

The other one I'd like to add is the certainty that, Natalie, I've never been so proud of you as I am today seeing you up on this bima. As you make this covenant, this promise, with God and the Jewish people, I would like to make a few promises, myself, for you. But before I do, First a promise to our guests. I PROMISE not to go on and on about how wonderful my daughter is. There will be little to no mention of how Natalie was speaking in full sentences at six months old, about how last year she successfully brought a Boeing 747 in for an emergency landing when the crew suddenly fell ill, or how after singing the Star Spangled Banner at the All-Star Game Barbra Streisand herself was quoted as saying, "Oy, what pipes!". I PROMISE, I've got NONE of that in my speech, All that will be in her mom's speech.

So this is the time that we, your parents, get the opportunity to share our thoughts and prayers with you. I've been looking forward to this moment for quite some time, because I finally have your attention. You can't pretend to pay attention to me while staring at your iPhone checking up on your Instagram feed. For once in your life, you're stuck listening to dad. So deal with it. But I promise to make it worth your while.

I believe it was the great philosopher Winnie The Pooh who once said, "you are braver than you believe, you are stronger than you seem, and you are smarter than you think". Let's break that down for a moment:

Braver: Whether it's going to overnight camp for the first time or finding your future career, for the rest of your life you are going to be challenged more than you ever thought imaginable. I PROMISE that if you continue to tackle these challenges with all the bravery you can muster, you will make it look easy. And don't be afraid to fail, either. Failing at something doesn't matter. It's how you perceive your failure, and how you act on the wisdom gained from that perception, that ultimately define and redefine you, and make you who you are.

Stronger: Don't talk yourself into not being you. I PROMISE that, if you are true to yourself, being YOU will bring out all the good that's inside. Be prepared,stand tall and strong, and you will accomplish anything you set out to do.

Smarter: You're smart enough to know where you are going. Right now you have dreams of stardom. Of acting. Of Hollywood. But your dreams at age 13 may not be the ones you have when you head to college. Or when you leave school. Or when your parents finally kick you out of the house. Your destiny may take a different shape as you grow older, and your interests may change as you experience new things. It wasn't that long ago that you woke up frightened of those big furry guys in Monsters Inc. and demanded that we take the DVD back to the store, even after having watched the movie twelve times. Now, your favorite movie is the Hunger Games. Those big furry monsters are a little less scary now, aren't they? Well, as Mayim Bialik, the actress from Big Bang Theory has demonstrated, you can be a Hollywood star AND a neuroscientist at the same time.

Right now you may think you know exactly what you want to do when you grow up, but at some point those dreams are going to change. But whatever happens, I promise there's a reason. And I promise you will figure it out. And, I promise it's going to be good. I also promise that, wherever your dreams take you, your parents are here to support you.

You know, virtually every parent of a B'nai Mitzvah gets up on the bima and states that they can't believe how fast the past 13 years have gone. And, as cliche as it is, in many ways that is absolutely right. Before we know it, one day you're going to DRIVE home after a long day of working and decide to take down all those Harry Potter and Hunger Games posters currently in your bedroom. Maybe you'll want to get rid of the zebra bedspread, or the massive collection of stuffed animals in your closet. But however you choose to redecorate, or whatever you choose to do as you get older, never forget what it's like to be a kid. Being a kid means your biggest concern is that you're running low on tiger print duct tape. When you're a kid, everything is about the journey, not the destination. It's about the story, not the conclusion. You take music lessons without caring whether you could somehow have a job playing the flute. You dress in silly costumes with your friends, simply because it's silly. You drag mom on a roller coaster for the thrill of seeing her scream in terror, without any concern for how she may make your life miserable after we get home from Kennywood. Who cares? Don't worry. Ignore what people think. Keep learning, keep experiencing, and keep being a kid. Just because you're growing up, doesn't mean you have to reach your destination.

Believe it or not, this day, your Bat Mitzvah, is not the experience of a lifetime. Oh sure, it's an achievement being up here on this bima, and this afternoon will be a really fun party, but the truth is this is just the beginning of a lifetime of new experience. The true measure of this experience doesn't come from how you perform here today, but rather how you continue in all the days that follow. I'm not sure where this day is going to take you, but I PROMISE you're going to enjoy the ride.