Why is this year different from all other years?
All other years I spend weeks planning meals, preparing shopping lists, making schedules of when to clean, shop and cook.
This year I did none of that.
All other years we spend hours upon hours and days upon days cooking food so we can “relax on the holiday”, all to be eaten up in a matter of minutes, maybe an hour per meal.
All other years I say to my husband, a rabbi and educator, that this year I want to add some fun and flare to our seder, something for both the kids and adults to enjoy, instead of just spending the seder reading through the haggadah.
But needless to say, with all my planning, cleaning, shopping, and cooking — all of a sudden we hit our deadline, and suddenly it’s time to take baths and showers before the holiday starts, and we have not come up with any ideas or plans.
This year I changed my priorities, this year my preparation went into the fun over the food.
A few weeks ago I started taking a class through my local municipality on Dr. Becky Bailey’s Cognitive Discipline, a class to help me, as a parent of a 5-year old, 2.5-year old, and baby, feel more like I have a toolkit in my back pocket for dealing with the not-so-fun situations parenting involves. It gives me ideas and resources of how to react and handle myself when my 5-year old overreacts to something not going his way, when my 2.5-year old has one of those terrible two-year old tantrums, and when my baby needs me at the exact same moment the other two do. The class is all about how to stay calm and collected, even in those tough moments, and to learn to read and treat my kids emotions as opposed to the behavior.
One of the first lessons you learn in this class is how to calm yourself – using mantras and breathing exercises, and the importance of manage your stress so when these moments arise, and they always do, you have a clearer head to address them.
Of course I am taking this class just as Purim and then Pesach is upon us, and all I can think is, how am I going to really implement what I learn, which my family needs desperately, keep up my job, where my responsibilities are growing, manage my family’s regular day-to-day life, oh and get ready for Passover?!
So I took a breath (I did balloon, faucet, pretzel and STAR for those familiar with the practice) and thought I just need to have a stress free Passover.
And then it came to me – I need to change my priorities.
So I took my menu, shopping lists and schedules and put them to the side.
Instead, I started to research ways to make our seder fun. I found ideas about making your table look like the splitting of the sea and thought, why not make the entire room the splitting of the sea? I ordered wall decals (which you can find at most baby stores) of fish and octopus to hang up on two walls, my kids and husband painted a mural of the dessert to hang up on a third wall, and they painted a table runner with sand paint. I then went on a search through my kids’ shelves and storage bins and found toys and games to have at the seder. Anything to make the seder come alive – plastic critters in the toy box, along with animal masks that can be made out of paper, stickers and other art tools, and some food items like kosher-for-Passover marshmallows and jello. I printed pictures from Google images of the four sons and created a seder version of ‘blind man’s bluff’.
Finally, for the kids who are too little to stay up for the Seder, I searched online and put together pieces and parts of “toddler seders” from a few different websites to create my own kids’ haggadah full of songs and pictures I found online to be colored on Friday and used on Saturday.
Avadim Hayinu…We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt and the Lord freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm.
Eved Hayiti…I was a slave, a slave to my stress and planning, schedules and calendars, and Becky Bailey freed me with a deep breath, a calm approach and a smile.
Naomi is currently serving as the Director of Recruitment at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. She is also a full time mom of three boys and a golden doodle.