The seders at her house are beautiful affairs. They spend hours and days and weeks planning, creating, and decorating the house in a different theme each year. Everybody is given a question relating to their personal interests and a portion of the sedar. I don't remember what mine was, mostly because The Wife didn't tell me what it was until it was asked of me. Regardless, each aspect of the seder is discussed and analyzed, and it's impossible to sit at the table and not walk away with a new knowledge and appreciation for how the whole situation resolved itself historically.
The only issue? We are the only family with non-grown children. There were several young married couples or young engaged couples that could be called peers to us (although, on average, ten years younger than me). There were several older couples, whose children were the young married/engaged couples. But, there were no other small children at the seders, and - frankly - that made it quite a bit more difficult for us.
Our kids are really quite well-behaved. They have their moments, of course. All children do. But, for the most part, they sit and eat their meals quite well. Occasionally, they will even consent to sit with us and talk for a little while. But, they are 4 and 2 and 8 months. They don't do four hour seders at this point in their lives. Since this holiday is a really, really big deal for The Wife, I took child duty during the important family events. Friday night, I chased the boys around the house while the seder continued. Occasionally, they'd head back to the table for a few minutes to sing a song or to check in with Mum, but, for the most part, they were playing downstairs in the basement. Little Bear went to bed around 10. The Boy followed soon after. I accidentally fell asleep with him and The Baby, waking enough to hand a crying baby off to Mum and head back to my own bed for the evening.
It's hard for me, too. I'm up at 5:30 every morning to run before work, then spend the evenings after work chasing children. Once they're asleep, I'm usually asleep within a half hour or so. Little Bear turns into a pumpkin, in general, at around 8:30. The Boy tends to pass out within a half hour of that. That makes seders that start at 8:19 (when the sun goes down) kind of problematical for my children's participation. From my perspective, there's very little that I stay awake past 11 for. Even on barbershop weekends with my chorus, when there are definite political & professional reasons to meet people and to talk to people until all hours of the night, I'm in bed at 10 or 10:30. Nights where dinner isn't served until after 10? That's difficult for me.
Don't get me wrong - it's worth it. Definitely worth the attempt. I would just be happier if we could start the whole thing around, say, 4:30; eat at 5:30 or 6:00; finish everything up at 7 or 7:30 and still have time for some more songs and games before bedtime. I do understand the religious necessity of starting things at particular times; I would just rather participate in this with wakeful children.
The next morning, we tried to take the kids to temple after breakfast. They slept in, almost until 8 o'clock, so we got a later start than we would have preferred. We arrived right at the exact wrong time: middle of the Torah reading, heading right into the sermon. That's not a good time for three small children, particularly when, yet again, they were the only small children in the building. (Are we sensing a pattern, here?) After about ten minutes of wrestling with them to try to get them to participate, we left and went home. The hope was that we would arrive at temple in time for them to sing the songs and say the prayers that they've learned. No dice.
At that point, we had about two hours to kill before lunch. We threw the kids in the car and took them to the local JCC, which was about a half mile from Aunt M's house. They have a wonderful, gated-in playground in the back that was open to the public. They ran off some of their energy there, until Little Bear pooped in his pants and necessitated a trip home and a bath. We went to lunch at Cousin J's house. I took the two older boys back to the house for a long, deep nap when they started to turn into pumpkins around 2.
After we all got up, Little Bear and I went on a quest for coffee. I accidentally left my medications at home, which meant that I was running on decongestants, antihistimines, and caffeine all weekend. The entirety of the downtown was closed, so I had to "settle" for Dunkin Donuts, which is always open. I sat outside and drank my coffee, and The Boy sat with me. We talked about nothing in particular, which was nice. The second seder got underway a little bit later than the first. The Baby fell asleep on my lap about twenty minutes before the seder started. The Boy started crying, "I miss Daddy!", so he came upstairs and rested with the two of us from about 8:30 onwards. It was very cute. The three of us dozed on and off until around 10, when The Baby woke up and needed Mum. I took her downstairs, took Little Bear from her and brought him up to bed, and I read stories to the two boys before putting them to bed.
At that point, I went downstairs. I wasn't particularly hungry - both nights, I snuck some food before the seder started. I sat with The Wife at the table for a little while, but I didn't stay too long. The decongestants and general lateness of the hour sent me to bed in about fifteen or twenty minutes. The next morning, we played around the house for a little while then went to lunch at Cousin J's house. I took The Baby for a nice, long walk in search of coffee, and then I took a nice nap before we headed out for lunch. It was a very nice, albeit late, lunch, and we then packed into the car and had an uneventful drive home. The boys were in bed around 7:30, The Wife was in bed by 8:30, and I was in bed around 9:15.
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