My Dear Fellow Parents,
- You love your children.
- You only want what is best for them.
- When they are happy you are invigorated.
- When they are depressed, in a rut, or confused you worry-perhaps you lose sleep.
- You wish you could do more for them, improve your relationship with them, but you just don't know how or can never find the time.
If these don't apply to you, you can close this letter and go back to your iPod or your Greek salad.
But if these assumptions do ring home, I want to share a message that is neither new nor revolutionary, but an important reminder we can all utilize.
In the midst of this craziness you're trying to raise healthy, happy, productive, NORMAL children. Good luck.
Our kids are growing up in a very, very crazy world. We all know that. It is a world where right and wrong appear synonymous, where more marriages dissolve than endure, where addictions are normal, where you can't wait on line at the supermarket or listen to the radio without blushing, and where people use eBay to rent out their foreheads for advertising space. And in the midst of this muck you're trying to raise healthy, happy, productive, NORMAL children. Good luck.
When they are young, you choose their schools, their friends, their clothes, and their music very carefully. You take them to the playground (less often than you should) and you bandage and hug them when they fall. And you hope for the best. You may even pray a little... just in case. But they don't stay young very long, do they? No, not any more. Your window of serious, effective influence is swiftly and steadily diminishing.
In short, what's a mother (or father) to do? What can you do to keep their earrings in their lobes, their hearts in sacred places, and their values intact?
The answer, in part, is Passover.
More than any other holiday, Passover is for the children. It affords parents an opportunity to connect with their kids in a most meaningful and magical way. It's a chance you do not want to miss.
No matter what your level of interest, observance, or commitment, you will likely attend a Seder (perhaps two -- unless you reside in Israel). Somehow the Seder has, over the years, morphed into the emblem of Western Jewry. Chanukah has been genericized by Adam Sandler, bagels have been loaned out (as in Lender's) to the every day working guy, and Jackie Mason now belongs to Broadway. What's left? The Seder. If you're Jewish, you show up. It's become the insignia of Club Jewish. You might grumble and moan, you might dread it and fret it, but it just feels wrong if you skip it. So you go.
And if you walk into Grandma's or Aunt Emma's every year with your Manischewitz Malaga and a face that says, "I'll just make the best of this," you are in good company. That's the mantra of the majority. What a pity.
This Passover, you can leave the bitter with the herbs. Really.
Seders come in all shapes, sizes, and choreographies; from long to longer, spirited to droning, meaningful to moot. By now, you just go with the flow. You understand very little, your watch appears to be in desperate need of a new battery, and you're glad you finally remembered to eat before you came. But guess what? It doesn't have to be that way. You can leave the bitter with the herbs. Really.
My advice? Put your fatigue, your apathy and your tedium aside and focus on the kids. Make it their night... one they can and should remember. Dedicate those few hours to them by focusing on their needs, interests and ideas. Depending on their age, of course, there are countless ways to stimulate them. Hear their questions and ask them others. Tell them stories and read their expressions. Value their every observation and revel in their wonder.
As is the case with any worthwhile endeavor, much of the success of this operation depends on your level of investment and preparation. If those two words frighten you, you are certifiably normal. I know. Investments must always be approached with appropriate caution and preparation would be fine as long as you didn't have to prepare for it. But in a world dominated by distractions galore, kids are simply STARVING for attention. And if they don't get it from you, they'll find it elsewhere -- mostly in places you dread.
So preparation is the key. Read a portion of the Haggadah in English a few days before the Seder. Make a list (okay, a mental one) of questions you have about it. Study a commentary on that same topic -- there are literally thousands out there (Did someone say Google?). Call Uncle Sol and ask him for a story about Grandpa's Seder in Olden Times. Find a website (like Aish.com and others) that offer a plethora of insights, recipes, and hands-on activities that can enhance your kids Passover experience.
Passover celebrates perhaps the most seminal event in Jewish History -- the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. So great is this happening that God employs it to identify Himself in the very first of the Ten Commandments! I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. This is, in fact, an unusual way in which God chose to describe himself. But by not using the more obvious description that He is the Creator of the world, He declares then and for eternity that He is much more than the architect of the Universe. He is, in fact, involved the continuing daily fate of His creations. Now that is a powerful message to deliver to everyone sitting around the Seder table.
My guess (hope) is that the benefits and enjoyment gleaned from this dedication and preparation will be so great, you'll decide to extend it for the full eight days of Passover. It is THE perfect time to take a bit of time off of your outside job and put it inside your kids. Nowadays we call it 'bonding.' Visit a park, a museum, or a Nursing Home. Have an old fashioned catch, spend an hour building something out of plaster, glass, or imagination, or bake a Passover cake together for yourselves and for Zaidy.
For generations, your ancestors understood that the bond created on Passover is an investment that is unique and priceless.
Use it to the fullest.
Your kids will love you for it.
Visit aish.com's Passover site for everything you need to know about Passover.