Do your kids squeeze money out of you?

I ordered donuts for my son’s class for tomorrow. My son Prince HockeyFan will be putting on tefillin for the first time in the morning (a month and a day before his 13th birthday), and the tradition these days is that they take donuts in to the class to celebrate this milestone.

A friend of mine wondered how come this has become such a celebration – in the olden days when we were all young it was a non-event. Kid went to shul, put on tefillin like everyone else and went on with his life.

My answer to when did this become a done thing? When kids realized they could squeeze even more money out of their folks than they are already doing. Truth is, folks, that you don’t want your kid to be the odd one out. If everyone else in their class brings in donuts on the day they don tefillin for the first time – don’t you want your kid to do the same? Don’t you want your child to feel as if he belongs?

For us, maybe it is a little different. My kids are still the new kids, to most intents and purposes. If he would be the only one that didn’t bring in donuts, maybe that would serve to press home the point?

I am usually NOT a follow the crowd type of person. I do my own thing and I am usually happy with that. However, I think we all want our kids to feel they have a circle of friends around them who support them and don’t judge.

But there is a limit – mostly it’s usually a financial limit. Most of the boys have a Shabbat barmitzvah AND a dinner during the week, or a luncheon or something smaller for their classmates. We are making a small affair over the barmitzvah Shabbat next month, with close family and friends. Nothing fancy – our emphasis is on the boy becoming a barmitzvah and celebrating him reaching this milestone in an appropriate fashion – appropriate for our son and our family.

2 dozen donuts isn’t going to break the bank and will make the child happy. I have no problem with it – but where does one draw the line? Is there a financial amount that you won’t go over? Where is your line?

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  1. fille says:

    I think fancy bar mitzwahs and the “vicious circle” they entail by not wanting to do anything less than “the others” is much worse and more ruinous than 20 donuts for the first tefilin…

    I do not think the children “want to squeeze out money”. I have the impression the adults are much more to blame for these bar-mitzwa competitions…

  2. batya from NJ says:

    Yeah, I would agree that the donuts are not such an extravagance & actually a nice little touch that makes the experience of putting on tefillin something fun & i think in today’s day & age when many kids are losing interest in the beauty of Orthodox Judaism, it’s helpful to show that Mitzvahs can also be fun & not just boring, antiquated & meaningless ritual.

  3. Mark says:

    It’s not the kids, it’s the parents. But the kids learn from the parents and it becomes a vicious circle.

  4. Risa says:

    I don’t know about you, but if I don’t think 24 donuts is too much for a 13 year old who will have to get up in front of everyone in a few weeks and sing out the Torah portion so everyone could hear. I’m not sure I would do it for some donuts …or even a party.

  5. shorty says:

    I guess its hard to be the one who changes things. But i tend to agree, where does it stop. There are already TWO events commemorate this amazing time of the boys Bar Mitzvah, the activist $hit disturber in me (and i know, i speak only as an observer) would take a stand and say no to donuts. It isn’t only about the cost of it. So what happens if some parent decides a Shevah Brachos kind of thing for Bar Mitzvah week, i think the line has to be drawn somewhere, and my personal opinion is that two parties is more than enough.

  6. batya from NJ says:

    Come to think of it, nowadays a lot of ppl. also make a little something on the “bo bayom” the actual day that the bar mitzvah boy was born in the Hebrew calendar in addition to the shabbos kiddush & additional luncheon but quite frankly that seems to be a relatively new phenomenon (as is the donuts for the 1rst tefillin-donning occasion). When my son had his bar mitzvah 2 + years ago, we made him a kiddush on shabbos & hosted close family members for all the shabbos meals & then made a Sunday afternoon party for the extended family & friends but we did not do anything special for his “Bo Bayom” even though that is becoming popular. I think we did buy donuts for his friends at school for the first time he put on Tefillin which was fine b/c the cost was not too excessive but the new Bo bayom phenomenon was not something which we felt we needed to do & thankfully my son wasn’t asking us to do it either.

  7. lady lock and load says:

    I am a firm believer that kids should work at whatever job they can get that does not interfere with school work so they have some of their own money and do not have to ask the parents for everything. This also teaches them the value of a dollar.
    Recently my daughter asked my husband for money for something that she was not in the mood of paying for (but my husband felt it was NOT his responsiblility) so he said NO. She can pay for it from her own funds if she wants to.
    I agree with the other posters that it is up to the parents to sometimes say no to all the things kids want but in this case doughnuts are cheap enough to celebrate his special day and B”H you aren’t required to buy sushi or chinese for the class (YET!)
    Mazal Tov and you should celebrate many simchas!!!

  8. sheldan says:

    I will call myself an old fogey (I prefer the term “old school” :-) ) but I would agree with everyone (especially Fille) that the Bar Mitzvah celebrations have gotten out of hand. I don’t think the donuts (doughnuts?) are a real problem, but it’s the actual day with a HUGE Kiddush for the congregation and the extravagance. We used to have (1968) a Kiddush luncheon for family and invited guests (other congregants had the regular congregational Kiddush downstairs).

    It’s just another example of “keeping up with the Joneses” (or Cohens) with these huge celebrations regardless of cost. I am not sure how sanity can be restored, but maybe if more Bar Mitzvahs were more private affairs, that could start the trend toward less extravagance (but I am afraid it will be a long time before we see that).

  9. birthwhisperer says:

    My grandfather A”H once told me about his Bar Mitzvah pre WWll. He was learning in a yeshiva in far away town. The day of his Bar Mitzvah his father traveled to the town where he was learning so that he could be there for his sons aliyah. The seudas mitzvah was the regular supper meal that everyone ate. And that was it – no fancy party and no kiddush.

    • batya from NJ says:

      BW, my how the times have changed ;)?!!

    • anon says:

      My grandfather also had his bar mitzvah pre WW2. He said after he had his Aliyah on shabbos, they had a bottle of scotch, said Mazel tov and moved on. Nevermind that Bat Mitzvah’s were not even mentioned. It really is amazing how much things have changed!

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