It Was, In Fact, Just About Enough for Us
Changing approaches to Passover as the girls mature.
Last year, Muffin and Squeaker were mostly oblivious to the changes that occurred in the house as Passover approached. This year, however, they were completely aware that things were different from the moment I stopped letting them snack in their room or in the living room. This was my attempt to limit the amount of chametz, or food items that are forbidden on Passover, that I would have to clean out of random crevices.
It is not random that I have, in the weeks leading up to Passover, referred to Muffin and Squeaker more than once as "chametz with feet." Cheerios, Kix, and other random breakfast cereals seem to appear randomly in odd places in our home. So limiting the locations where I was most likely to find these remnants was an attempt to maintain a sense of order as things got crazy pre-Passover.
A major challenge for me was how to maintain as much normalcy for the girls as possible while not leaving all my cleaning to the last minute. So the week before the holiday, I took the tasks that I had left to do, broke them down into discrete chunks, and designated a chunk of tasks per day. Many of the tasks I tried to do either while Michael read to the girls or after the girls went to bed, but there were some that I could not avoid doing while the girls were awake.
One of the most important tasks was cleaning the oven. The oven has a self-clean cycle, which makes this task a lot easier than it might be, but it fills the apartment with fumes. So on Sunday April 1, I sent Michael and the girls to the Devotion School playground so that I could go home and run the self-clean cycle on my oven without worrying about exposing the family to the annoying fumes. The girls were a bit confused about this "family" outing to the park that did not include Mommy, and they tired out before the end of the three-hour window I needed for the self-cleaning, but they were able to come home to a mostly fume-free home and take a nap while I finished overseeing the oven's cleaning.
On the Thursday night just before the holiday, there were a number of tasks that had to be done, and I did not want to be up very late at night completing them. So while Michael and a friend of ours went out to get our last pre-Passover dinner at Taam China, I worked on some of these. I had hoped that the girls would amuse themselves by playing so I could get the counters covered, but they were having none of that. If Daddy was out, of course they had to be where Mommy was. So I made a game out of covering the counters. Holding a roll of covering material, I counted to three and then rolled the material down the counter while the girls laughed and clapped.
On Friday morning, our babysitter had the day off for Good Friday, and Michael and I took the girls on a final Passover-related errand to destroy the last of our chametz at the fire station on Chestnut Hill Ave. After that, we returned home for lunch and nap.
With the beginning of the holiday itself came a big question. Would we do what we had done last year and put the girls to bed before the beginning of the seder, or would we try to find a way to let them stay up for at least part of it? Michael and I discussed it and decided that if the girls napped well, we would bring them to the seder already in pajamas and then put them to bed when they couldn't stay up any longer. Muffin and Squeaker have not yet learned the Four Questions, but when we went to Brookline Booksmith with them last month, one of the books they picked out was a Passover book about the song Dayenu, and they had learned the chorus through multiple iterations of reading the book. We therefore hoped that we would be able to keep the girls up at least until the point in the seder that we sing Dayenu.
In the end, the girls really surprised us. Since they napped very well on both Friday and Saturday afternoon, they were able to participate both nights until the middle of dinner (which, I should note, was after 10 p.m.) and then slept late on Saturday and Sunday mornings. They really seemed to enjoy participating in the ritual, and they definitely enjoyed singing Dayenu. They sang "la la la" along with me as I asked the Four Questions, and they enjoyed following along in the Haggadah, the book that contains the ceremony for the Passover seder. With luck, next year they will be able to participate even more. And maybe next year I will no longer be the youngest one at the table who knows how to ask the Four Questions.
This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.
Editor's Note: This column typically appears on Friday mornings at 9 a.m., it has been published a day early in recognition of the final day of Passover. This column will re-run on Friday at the regular time.