We celebrate Hanukkah because the oil in the Temple lasted eight days. Well, good for the oil, but kids under 5 behaving well for eight days would be quite another miracle. Seriously.
And I get it: It’s very hard for them to handle eight consecutive nights of staying up later than usual. In addition, they’re often getting presents and consuming sugary deliciousness all of those nights in a row. When you think about it, it’s basically a recipe for disaster. If your kid hasn’t started saying, “Where’s my present?” before lighting the candles, I’d call that a parenting victory. As someone who has four kids under 4, perhaps I should have anticipated it: The Third Day/Fourth Night Meltdown.
READ: Star Wars and the Hanukkah Story Have More in Common Than You Think
The day began inauspiciously before the break of dawn and plummeted into the depths of worse and worse behavior from there. Yeah. Happy Hanukkah.
At 5:45 a.m., the 4-year-old entered my bedroom, contrary to all family rules. I have six kids and it still bothers me that when kids are overtired, they sleep less, not more.
“Mommy, I KNOW it’s not 6 o’clock, but I have something to tell you…did you know I’m wearing blue pajamas?”
When it finally came time to drive the nursery school carpool three hours later, things had escalated with the 4-year-old from noncompliance to straight defiance. She punched her sister, so I had confiscated her barking doggie toy that had been her gift the night before, letting it bark forlornly from behind the closed door in its new home, a high-up closet shelf. Tears had been shed. Then the kid had the chutzpah to demand a cookie bribe to get in the car. “Request” denied. She sulked all the way to school and had to be physically pried out of the car in the carpool line. Swell. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, kid.
READ: How I Learned to Give Up Christmas & Love Hanukkah For What It Is
At pick-up, I was optimistic that the day could still take a turn for the better. I brought her home and gave her a sufganiya (jelly doughnut) for a treat. That was when she turned to me and said, “You’re too fat to eat these.” Um…what? Time out, confiscated sufganiya, and a quick dissertation on how we don’t say things like that to anyone, much less your mother. Then we moved on to other battlegrounds, like “We Don’t Play Hide And Seek With Mommy While Mommy Is On A Conference Call;” “Hitting Siblings Is Wrong;” “So Is Pushing;” “So Is Pinching;” and, “We Don’t Get Dessert If We Don’t Eat Dinner.”
Look—normally, she’s a pretty good kid. But like I said, it’s a miracle if oil lasts eight days, but kids can barely make it to three.
I’m not going to get into the details of our final, all-out-conflict. But it ended with skipping the bath, getting right into pajamas, and then being put to bed. BEFORE HANUKKAH. Yeah, that’s right: Mom/The Grinch Cancelled Hanukkah. I’m convinced you could hear her screams and sobs down the street that served as background music to the rest of us lighting the hannukiyot and singing.
READ: Tips for Interfaith Families Celebrating Hanukkah & Christmas
Eight crazy nights indeed, Adam Sandler. You have no idea, buddy.
It’s a great holiday, but it’s a tough one for parents. That “overtired” thing is no joke. I will suggest, however, that Hanukkah celebrates rededication. And just as the Jews of ancient days rededicated the Temple, I too can take the dawn of a new day and see if a little bit of patience can last the rest of the holiday. It’s a new day, and both she and I will rededicate ourselves to making ourselves better. And that will feel like a small miracle.