Passover is the time Jewish people get together and tell the story of Exodus so the kids learn where they came from (we were slaves in the land of Egypt… is the refrain). But no story you’ve heard every year for your whole life is interesting, so part of Passover is making the story fun for kids.
There’s a whole industry of products manufactured to make Passover fun. I am partial to the windup matzoh balls and the masks based on the ten plagues. But the best way to keep the kids interested is to tell them they can interrupt the adults at any time to ask a question. Kids are rewarded for asking questions about Passover.
I remember being shy as a kid about questions. The table was fancy and the dinner was orderly and I didn’t want to say anything stupid.
But my kids did not have that problem. For starters, when we read the Hagadah out loud, as a group, “I took your father Abraham from across the river, and I lead him to the land of Canaan, and I increased his descendants…” The kids burst out laughing. And then they squealed, “Sex! That means they had sex!”
Conundrum: Do I reward the kids for the close reading of the night’s lesson, or do I tell the kids to shut up?
Then the questions came. The kids never felt pushed to ask smart, impressive questions. They just wanted to chat with the adults.
Is God bad if he killed all those Egyptian kids? Do we follow a mean God?
Can we eat cookie dough on Passover? Google says it takes 14 minutes to start rising.
The questions were endless. And Passover became longer than I ever remembered. And I realized this is what the kids do every day as homeschoolers. People always tell me my kids are different: “You can tell they’re homeschooled,” people tell me. And I see that means that my kids will engage adults in conversation much more freely than kids who go to school.
It’s the goal of Passover. So of course on some level the unbridled conversation is good. But sometimes it gets tiring, and I confess that when the first half of the Passover seder lasted an hour and a half, I told the kids they each had only three more questions.
“Budget them carefully,” I told them.
And my older son blurted out, “Mom?!?! Are you trying to teach us self-restraint?”