As a kid, I used to look forward to Purim not only because it meant getting goody baskets delivered to our door, but because I enjoyed putting together these baskets, mishloach manot, for friends and family. Once I was old enough to help, my mom would have me line up various food items on the table, assembly line-style, and assist her in arranging and wrapping each basket. It was a time-consuming, and most likely expensive, process, but one that we all enjoyed.
Fast forward to adulthood, and these days, mishloach manot baskets aren’t something I have a lot of time for. I have a busy schedule. My kids and my work take up just about every spare minute I have, and, admittedly, I’m the last person to have the skill or patience to deal with anything remotely Pinterest-worthy.
Let’s put it this way: Wrapping a birthday present is kind of harrowing for me, because I’m bad at it and hate doing it. Which is why last year, I participated in my synagogue’s mishloach manot program. Rather than make them myself, I opted to pay a nominal fee to have my name added to the cards on other people’s Purim baskets that the synagogue put together. It saved me time, effort, and maybe even some money.
But this year I’m doing things differently. This year, I want my 4-year-old son to play an active role in the giving part and not just be on the receiving end of the mishloach manot custom. So despite the fact that it’ll probably cost more and take a lot more time, I’ve decided that we’ll be making mishloach manot ourselves. Not only that, but we’ll be customizing our baskets rather than giving everyone the same exact things. We have one close friend, for example, with severe peanut allergies, so his cookies and treats will obviously be nut-free. Then there’s another friend who, like me, is an M&M fanatic, and so we’ll be stocking that basket with a nice variety.
In fact, I’ve already spent a fair amount of time putting together not only a list of the people I want to make baskets for, but the specific things I’d like to give to each of them. I’ve also been doing my best to involve my son in the process. The other day as I was jotting down notes, I asked him what treats he wanted to give to his friend M. “Applesauce and cookies,” he said, and random as they might be, I’ll be adding those items to my list.
I know I’d be perfectly justified in taking the easier and less time-consuming way out by participating in my synagogue’s mishloach manot program, but doing so, for us, means missing out on some of the meaning behind the custom. I want my son to experience the joy of giving, and I want him to understand what it means to put thought, effort, and love into a gift, be it a birthday present or a basket of treats to mark the occasion of Purim.
So while I’m already anticipating a hectic number of days leading up to the holiday, I’m excited for us to make our mishloach manot together. With any luck, my son will enjoy dishing out our hand-picked goodies almost as much as he does eating them.