By Cantor Jessica Epstein, March 4, 2020
1-Give them space.
Your child will naturally be nervous or anxious. Make sure to give them Friday off from school whether you are doing pictures or not. Let them sleep in, have a relaxing morning. Try not to have a hectic afternoon before Friday night services. Let them be home relaxing. The morning of, after the preparations, come to the temple with plenty of time to spare so no one is rushing. I always take the children to the Robing Room behind the ark at 9:45 AM, if you feel your child needs more time to decompress or review that morning, please let me know.
2–Photos can be as stressful as the service.
Try to do as many of the photos as you can before the big day. The morning is tough. If your child is overwhelmed by the photography sessions, make sure to give them plenty of breaks during the shoot.
3–Have your child review everything the night before.
Studies show that this can indeed get into their memory while they sleep, and it will reinforce what they know.
4-Try to manage or, better yet, ignore other people’s expectations.
Your child is not on American Idol and you are not Martha Stewart. They will do their very best, which is different for every child. This is not a competition. No one is perfect. This includes social expectations. My daughter had five good friends come, and was happy with that as was I. They hung out in my office for an hour having a great time. It truly is quality over quantity. Do not get sucked into a numbers game regarding “friends,” most of whom they don’t even talk to. I know it happens. It is an energy drain, a financial drain and your children will follow your cues. Many people kept asking me about my daughter’s voice, was she a singer. I started saying, “She is who she is.” All our kids deserve this.
5–Siblings have feelings too.
Your other children may consciously or unconsciously be naturally a bit envious. Be sensitive to this, but it can’t be helped only managed. For older siblings, remind them they already had a special day, maybe take out the album or re-watch the video or montage. For younger siblings remind them they have a special day coming, start to ask them what they would like to do (colors, theme).
If there is a someone, even a family member, who causes you stress, it is ok to limit contact and interactions in order to take care of yourself and your family on your special day.
7-No family is “perfect.”
If you are separated, divorced or in a blended or otherwise non-traditional family, take the high road, but also maintain your equilibrium by limiting contact and not putting pressure on yourself to be something you’re not, and don’t beat yourself up for not being a “perfect” family. Every family is different and you are perfect the way you are.
Plan a day (or two!) before the event AND a day after the event to pamper yourself in a way that feels good to you. Take the entire week off work if you possibly can, or at least Thursday and Friday. Whether this is a facial, massage, or just a hot bath and a morning in bed, take care of yourself so you can give from a full cup. Also, you deserve it.
9-Think ahead for the needy.
Try to find somewhere to donate the extra food. I forgot to do this. My parents brought trays to their Adult Ed class the next morning, luckily. Our member Julie Kaplan from Neighbors Helping Neighbors gave me Nick Santinelli’s number who picks up food for the hungry in Newark. Call him at 973-809-4922 and he will pick up any leftovers to bring to the needy.
10–It takes a village.
No one can get through this event alone. From Gail Milchman helping with dates, to Laura Wold in the temple office, Debbie Meron, the clergy assistant, Melissa Weiner and Arleen Lichtenstein helping with education and the mitzvah projects, Tina Greenberg helping coordinate the space and photos, Tracey Bent with his maintenance and security staff and of course Rabbis Vaisberg and Dantowitz, our beloved tutor Rena Casser who prepared my daughter (I never even heard her Torah till the Tuesday before!), and of course me – we are all here to help you make this day memorable and special for you and your family. If you have a question – ask. If you need help with something – ask us! We are here for you. I couldn’t have had this special day for Elizabeth without literally everyone in the building.
One more thing – at some point in the day, just breathe, look around, feel the love in the room, put all the details aside and smile at your child as they shine, and they will shine.
May we all only go from simcha to simcha to simcha.
Kein Y’hi Ratzon. May this be God’s will.