1) On all other nights, our children go to bed by 7 pm. On this night, we light candles and begin just after 7 pm.
Solution: Give the kids a nice nap during the day (using the car to lull them to sleep if necessary–something I normally abhor), and explain for them that this is a big guy night. Lay it all out: it starts late, you’re going to be tired, and that’s just the way it works. We give options: you can lie down on the couch we have next to our table, or you can be tucked in. But we also make it clear that mama and dada can’t do our usual lay with you until you fall asleep routine: this night is different!
2) On all other nights, when we sit down to eat, food follows shortly. On this night, there is a LOT of song and dance before we even dip that piece of parsley in salt water!
Solution: Bring out small fun multi-colored hard boiled potatoes with that parsley, and don’t be shy about putting a bottle of sugar-y Passover ketchup on the table. Anything to get some food in our boys’ bellies works for us at this point in the evening. Before we veganized the house, hard-boiled eggs and gefilte fish were also served with the karpas. Adults dig that.
3) On all other nights, my dear sons pretty much believe they are the centers of the Universe, no matter how my husband and I try to have adult conversation. On this night, it’s all about the adult stuff.
Solution: Prepare older kids starting from the end of Purim to sing the Four Questions, sing another song from the Haggadah (“Avadim Hayinu” is one of our favorites), or sing a relevant song not from the Haggadah (Miles does a wicked version of “Go Down, Moses”). Ten Plagues puppets are a must for us, and we let Miles present each one as we recite them in English and in Hebrew. If these sound too hard for you or your little one, let them color a picture of some part of the Passover story and share it with everyone at the table. Provide opportunities for the kids to leave the table as needed and sit on anyone’s lap who wants them. This is not the time for formality and spontaneity and variety can keep small people going long after bedtime, we have found. Our little guy may end up nursing to sleep somewhere in the middle of the telling of the story of Exodus, and that’s fine too.
4) On all other nights, Mama is a control freak who micromanages everyone a little bit too much, demands “no shouting,” has a short fuse, and gets overwhelmed easily. Okay, and sometimes she gets so frustrated she wants to cry. On this night, none of that sh*t flies.
Solution: Take a step back, and realize you are taking part in the re-enactment of the story of our liberation and that’s what the night is really about. Whether or not you “believe” the story is “true,” this is a celebration of freedom from whatever enslaves you. Let Passover free me–please God–from what binds me and enslaves me: my temper, my need for control, my frailty… and let me be grateful to celebrate in health with my children, my family, and with all Jews and all people everywhere who long to be free.
Chag Pesach Sameach.