I don’t have the bandwidth for Passover this year. We got through the seders by going to family, but now we’re home, and I’m dreading the rest of the week. I don’t know how to make the next few days feel like a meaningful experience to my kids. The likelihood is that every meal will turn into a power struggle with them about food, and there aren’t any more fun rituals to distract them. They range from ages 4-11, they have digestive issues that require limiting their matzah intake and they complain about everything I can think of to offer them for meals or snacks. Help.
Five More Days
I’m sorry you’re struggling, and I hope I’m able to help, first by pointing out that your question is really two questions: 1) How to make the non-seder part of Passover meaningful, and 2) What to feed your kids. Detangling the search for meaning from the search for acceptable foods may help you feel less overwhelmed and more capable of addressing both of these questions separately.
Seder is, of course, the main event of Passover, but it’s not the only ritual. Starting on the second night of Pesach, we begin counting the Omer, the period of seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. Making an Omer calendar to help count each day is a super kid-friendly, interactive project, and saying the blessing together each night can be a grounding and rewarding family experience. For example, one year, our friend Josh Rosenberg gave us an Omer counter made of bubble wrap, which involved popping one bubble each night. It was fun and memorable, and the kids made sure we never missed a night!
Also, Passover songs can be sung all week. A morning chorus of “Dayeinu” or a little ditty about frogs on Pharaoh’s head at bath time can bring up happy memories of seder and help remind everyone that we’re still celebrating. If your kids worked hard on the Four Questions, they should keep asking them and keep receiving praise for doing so.
On an even more religious front, the seventh day of the holiday is when the splitting of the Red Sea is said to have occurred. You could, of course, go to services to commemorate this occasion, or you could use this day as an opportunity to discuss the Exodus in more detail, read picture books about Passover celebrations and look at (and maybe even recreate) Pinterest models of Lego figures or Barbies crossing the sea. You can celebrate the bravery of Nachshon walking into the water first and Miriam (not that I’m partial) leading the women in song.
And yet, even if you do all these fun projects, even if you count the Omer as a family, even if you sing and read books and contemplate the true meaning of freedom, I know, it would not have been enough, not if your kids aren’t eating. Instead of focusing on what they can’t eat, focus on what they can. Say yes as much as humanly possible. Make every meal a game and a celebration. Reassure yourself that your children will not allow themselves to starve. Also know that if they have health issues that necessitate not following a Passover diet, there are resources out there to support that decision as well.
Provide a wide range of fruits and cheese and nuts. Pull out all the stops for arranging their food beautifully, allowing extra treats whenever possible. Buy as many bags of potato chips as can fit in your cabinets. Make almond-flour pancakes and potato starch crepes and omelets. Serve them chicken drenched in matzah meal and fried, or hamburgers with lots of ketchup and no bun. Consider adding kitniyot (legumes) back into your Passover diet if you haven’t done so already to have some more options.
When you focus solely on the food restrictions, your kids will be more likely to make that their focus as well While all of the above ideas may not make strange food ultimately easier for them, there will be a context and tradition supporting you and them while they manage an adjusted diet for the week and find a lot of joy in the process.
Be well, and moadim l’simcha,