It is clear to most who know me that my personality lends itself to the Type A variety. So it is no surprise that I approached a family trip to Disneyland in the most serious of ways. I read books, visited websites, learned the value of mapping out each day (down to the bathroom breaks). If we were going to Disney, we were going to win Disney. At least that was the plan.
But tucked into one of the books I read was the most valuable piece of parenting advice I have ever come across: your children are still your children. Just because you are in the Magic Kingdom does not somehow mean you have magically transformed your children. Your child that whines? He’s still going to do that. Sibling squabbles? That still exists — even on Main Street USA. Your introverted child? She doesn’t change and, in fact, the level of sensory overload that exists isn’t going to help her one bit. We expect magic and have truly impossible expectations.
In fact, and this is one of our family’s favorite stories: we are all standing on Main Street USA on our first glorious day at Disney and my seven year-old turns to me and says, “I’m bored.” Bored? Bored? I take a few deep breathes before telling him, “You are literally in the happiest place in the entire world. It is impossible that you are bored.” He thinks about it for a minute and says, “Well, then I’m hungry.” Voila. That, my friends, is parenthood. You can be standing in DISNEY WORLD and nothing really changes.
I say this only to lead into a thoughtful discussion about the Seder. We spend so much time cooking, cleaning and preparing for Pesach. We save art projects, make up games, think about the best ways to make the Seder child-friendly. But here’s the thing: Seder needs to be friendly to your child. Those expectations need to be realistic. We’re already starting Seder late at night, without a lot of food, with a big (rather intimidating) book in front of them. So, cut yourself some slack. Kids that hate big crowds will hate a big seder. Kids that meltdown after 8 pm will still meltdown after 8 pm — even if you’ve been preparing all week. And that is okay. Create a scenario where your kids can succeed. Allow them to shine early in the Seder so that they (and you) won’t feel bad when they fall asleep early. Prepare a mini-meal (cut veggies, candy bags) for kids (and grandparents?) who get crabby when hungry. Enjoy the successes. It took the Jews 40 years of wandering (and complaining) to get where they needed to go. We can probably make it through a few hours.