Teaching Kids How to Party — on the Cheap

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Commentator Aaron Freeman claims that when his twin daughters had their Bat Mitzvahs this year, his family threw the cheapest party of the season in Highland Park, Ill. The results were far from tragic.


Commentator Aaron Freeman's twin daughters are getting ready for the ninth grade. But long before they were preparing for high school, he taught them a lesson about their Bat Mitzvah.


Ours is an upper middle-class community with a healthy percentage of Jews, many of whom are tragically overcompensated. In Highland Park, spending less than a hundred thousand dollars on a party for a 13-year-old is considered frugal. My daughters went to a party this year that not only included a caravan of stretch SUVs taking their kids to a Chicago ballroom to eat crab, but once there each kid, in between dances led by professional booty shakers--each kid got her picture taken with a man who my daughter continues to swear was the real Brad Pitt.

No matter what we did, our daughters' party would not compete, so we decided to go low rent and high spirit. `No,' said Mom and Dad to a ballroom or a banquet hall, not even the local country club. `We can decorate our nice big yard,' said Mom, `and have a bunch of fun doing it,' added Dad. `A tent?' `No.' `Deejay?' `No.' `OK, but where are we going to put the dance floor?' `No dance floor. You know, when the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea, they dan'--`All right, all right, all right!' whined my daughters. The biblical stuff always gets them.

The months leading up to their Bat mitzvah zigzagged between studying the Bible passage they would recite and arguing about the party they would have. On the big day my daughters read their portions flawlessly, and the party--well, let's just say they didn't miss the deejay. A musician friend loaned us a sound system, which my kids plugged into their computers and played songs they downloaded on iTunes, so they loved all the music. Instead of catering, I and my mother and our buddies Steven(ph) and James grilled yams and pineapples and fish. And everybody danced and ate and got down like it was 2099.

Near the party's end my younger daughter, sweaty from dancing and bloated with punch, even apologized for all the grief she had given us. And to top it off, the next day the mother of a girl who had been at our party called to say she, the parent, had used our party as ammunition against her daughter's demand for three pro dancers.

Now we are by no means the only folks in town who reject insane Bar-Bat Mitzvah expenditures, but we are immensely proud to be among them. And we brag to have underspent them all and still had a blast. The lesson is, of course, that any mope with money can keep up with the Joneses, but it takes a wealth of family and friends to get down with the Freemans.

BLOCK: Aaron Freeman, writer, performer and native son of Chicago.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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