[Post I'm mulling: What are the schools serving? at Conversations in Klal]
With Chanukah starting tonight, I'm thinking about a perennial problem: The Menorah Fights.
It's been a family tradition among my children for years, and I remember doing it when I was their age, too. At some point during the menorah lighting, one child or another will become upset that her menorah isn't up front, or that his menorah doesn't have a fair share of purple candles, or that he didn't get to light tonight, or that she lit first, or that she stepped on his foot when we started dancing during Maoz Tzur, and so on. All while I'm trying to have a religious as well as pedagogic experience...
So what can we do to head this off? My first rule in parenting - at least theoretically - is to plan ahead. Whether in managing kids in shul, or in dealing with chinuch issues, or anything else, I find I am awful at handling things on the spot. I need to work at it in advance. But how?
So I've been thinking about the Pesach Seder model. Thank Gd, we don't see the same problems at the Seder, even though it's late at night, the food doesn't come until late, and so on. Why does the Seder work?
A few thoughts, which may be practical for Menorah-lighting as well -
1. The Seder is unique; it comes twice, and that's it for the year. Perhaps we need to find ways to make sure each night's menorah lighting is unique, so that they won't become bored, or too familiar with it.
2. The Seder has dedicated time, when all of us are devoted only to the seder experience. Contrast that with Menorah lighting, which takes place while dinner is in the offing, there are shiurim to prepare/deliver, the phone is ringing and so on. Having dedicated time takes some of the pressure off of both adults and children.
3. At the Seder, our children have unique, dedicated space at the table, and unique, dedicated tasks (reading, targeting a specific afikoman, and so on). Probably a good idea to assign space, personal menorah and personal role (holding the berachos card, for example) when we light the menorah.
4. The Seder has a clear educational component, which is individualized in its focus. Perhaps it would make sense to design individualized education for each child during the lighting, itself.
All things to think about. All things I should have thought about last week, of course, if I were truly planning ahead. Ah, well. Happy Chanukah, חג אורים שמח!