Simon squirmed in his high chair as the Seder began. Then, he grabbed forks and spoons and clanged them together. Chagrined, I looked over at him. The woman next to me whispered not to worry. “You shall tell your children,” she reminded me. The Hagaddah, after all, urges us to tell the story of Jews’ freedom from slavery to our children.
But I sat there wondering what constitutes “telling” our children if they refuse to listen.
For Second Night Seder, we sat at the last of three tables pushed together in a friends’ dining room. Unlike our First Night Seder, our friends’ celebration was more traditional. Everyone read from the Hagaddah, and the time between the first cup of wine and dinner was at least an hour. Simon, at two, was the youngest by a decade. My hope was he would absorb parts of a traditional Seder by being there. Those hopes were quickly dashed.
When it was time for dipping the bitter herbs, Simon became engaged – for a few minutes. He, however, did not want to give up the bowl of salt water. “Mine, mine,” he said, and kept dipping one piece of parsley after another. The couple across from us, parents of two older children, took it in stride and used another bowl. Admittedly, it was hard to hide my grin – and my husband and I, along with others, had our share of giggles because of Simon’s antics.
The Seder leader, with Simon in mind, and another guest read a Dr. Seuss version of the Passover story that was printed in the Hagaddah. Simon listened off and on. He was already too interested in getting out of the high chair. He was having a blast, none of which had to do with Passover. He twisted around and began talking to his reflection in the window. Finally, after a few repeated high-pitched demands, Simon was let out of the high chair. He crawled under the table and played peek-a-boo from underneath the lacy tablecloth. No one protested, but we decided this game could backfire. One wrong move and cups of wine would spilleth over.
My husband and I took turns with Simon, who led us on chases up and down the stairs. He paused a few times to color, and returned to his chair for matzah and then stayed still for the Four Questions. As he did at home, he chimed in on a few words. Then, off he went.
He missed Dayenu, something he likes to sing with us because he was on the stairs with his Dad in pursuit. He and I missed the ten plagues for the same reason. So much for that frog puppet I had tucked in a backpack equipped with books and toys for the evening.
The Seder was a warm, enriching experience for us as adults. I doubt that Simon gleaned much about Passover because he sat still for so little of it. This is not a complaint. It’s reality. Our toddler may have gotten more of a sense about the holiday from the First Night Seder that centered around him at our dinner table. We left around 8:30 p.m. before dessert was served, heeding our son’s wish. “Sleep,” Simon said. Dayenu.