Four Answers for Two Toddlers
Incorporating Passover tradition without screwing up bedtime
Next Monday night, Michael and I will start observing Passover with our family and friends. As part of that observance, we will be having a seder, the ritual meal and telling of the story, in our home on the first two nights of the holiday. Many of the elements of the seder, such as the songs we sing and the symbols we place on the table, are included to entice and interest the children at the table. In fact, the centerpiece of the introduction to the story of the Exodus from Egypt are the Four Questions traditionally asked by the youngest at the table. The Four Questions are actually introduced with another question, usually translated as "Why is this night different from all other nights?"
With Passover coming after the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, the seder starts after the girls' 7 PM bedtime. Many things done at the Passover seder are designed, as the sages tell us, "so that the children will ask." But Michael and I realized that Muffin and Squeaker are too young to get much out of the ceremony, and it would be especially disruptive to keep them up late. (Last year, their sleep schedule was erratic enough that they actually sat with us for parts of both seders.) We needed to find a way this year to strike a balance between involving them in the ritual and maintaining their routine, and we chose to defer to their routine.
But we still want to make the holiday special for them. So the question is, how do we do so? Interestingly enough for a holiday with Four Questions, we found four answers.
First of all, my parents -- whom the girls know as Sabba and Savta, the Hebrew words for grandfather and grandmother -- will be joining us for the first two days of the holiday. They will be sleeping in our home and sharing meals with us, giving Muffin and Squeaker plenty of time to play with them and bond with them.
Secondly, on Monday, the girls will get to participate in the last vestiges of preparation for the holiday. I will be taking them out on the last of my errands, including the ritual burning of the last pieces of bread. Unlike last year, when they were barely eight months old at Passover, this year they are old enough to understand the adventure of going on interesting errands with Mommy.
The third way we are going to make the holiday special for the girls is with traditional Passover food. While they were barely eating solid food last year, this year Muffin and Squeaker will get to partake of the matzah balls in the chicken soup (although neither of them are overly excited about soup itself yet) and perhaps taste the gefilte fish as well. They may enjoy matzah brei (fried matzah), a common breakfast or lunch item on Passover that is similar in preparation method to the girls' beloved French toast.
Finally, we’ve decided to give their (non-Jewish) babysitter the holiday off, so the girls will have Michael and me taking care of them throughout. Our only concern is that this might be confusing for them. With luck, Michael and I will find ways to make it special. If the weather is cooperative, we may go on walks around our Washington Square neighborhood and take the girls to Waldstein Playground. If it is raining, we can take them to the playscape at Magic Beans in Coolidge Corner. Whatever we do, though, we will strive to keep in mind the goal of making this a different time, to the level that the girls can understand.
This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.