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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Dear Gary’

A Child-Centric Seder

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Dear Gary,

As Pesach approaches, I get worried because I want to have a great Yom Tov, and yet, every year, the seder ends in some sort of fighting and arguing. My husband wants the seder to be all about divreiTorah and so do I, but between the younger children (who we want to be awake for the whole seder) and guests, we somehow end up in stern looks and squabbles. I’m happy we have guests or else we’d probably start yelling at each other and even Eliyahu Hanavi would bail. I know everyone jokes about how tough Pesach is, but I can’t see the humor anymore – and neither can my children. What can we do to manage a calm (I don’t even wish for happy) seder?

A Sad Mom

Dear Sad Mom,

You are far from being alone in the scenario you describe. Imagine the request: a serious reliving of our yetzia (exodus) – knowing that every additional minute spent in serious discussion is praiseworthy – mixed with a need to eat enormous amounts of unusual foods (matzah and marror to name a few), along with a lack of normal food being eaten until hours into the event which begins well after most children’s bedtimes. Oh yeah, and let’s drink a lot of alcohol. But, it’s all about the kids.

Most families struggle when it comes to the sedarim, and with good reason. The seder for a 6-year-old is a completely different experience then for a 16-year-old and even more different for an adult, family member or guest. We rarely ever put all of those people together in one place, expect them all to do the same things and sit for the same amount of time. Too often, it is a recipe for anger and disappointment, which is so unfortunate because we work so hard to prepare for Pesach. To work that hard and be met with a sense of failure can be overwhelming.

The answer (note that I am not writing as a halachic authority) lies in envisioning how you want yourself and your children to look back at the seder night. Like with every mitzvah, parents have to consider the age of their children and how each one will react to the experience. If both you and your husband think about how you want to feel when you wake up Yom Tov morning, you will be well on your way to a better chag.

Sometimes, we get caught up in what we think or have been taught is “right” or “necessary,” and lose sight of what will actually be a healthy spiritual experience. We want our children to look forward to the seder and have positive associations, not memories of family distress. Here are some simple ideas people have suggested to me over the years. Consider these ideas and if you have any halachic questions about any of them, consult your local authority.

1. Feed younger children before the seder begins. Typically the seder begins late – especially on the second night – and it takes a while to see real food. Hungry children are not easygoing children. Feed them earlier so that they are not starving at the start of the seder.

2. Make it about the kids. The Mah Nishtana, the afikomen and so much of the Hagaddah tells us to be festive and engage in childish behavior – if it is with the purpose of teaching and learning. There are songs you can download that are fun spirited. Act out the different parts of the story as you read them. Kids (and adults) can dress up as different characters.

Play charades – create a stack of Judaic situations (Moshe and the burning bush, Avraham smashing his father’s idols, Rivkah giving Esav’s clothes to Yaacov) and then have teams act it out, with everyone else guessing what is being depicted. Do this at different times during the seder.

Have the younger kids grouped together at one end of the table, so if there is a serious discussion taking place, they can be doing something else.

Have small prizes for kids and young teens who ask any legitimate question. This idea can really generate great discussions. If a kid gets a small prize every time he or she asks a question (it doesn’t have to be a great one, just one that isn’t silly), that child feels a part of the seder and is adding something real. Often the adults can answer or consider the questions, which creates an excitement in the child.

3. Let all your guests know before the seder begins what special things you will be doing so everyone can take part.

Connect To Love

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Dear Gary, I’m very upset with the younger generation today and the way they treat their marriages. I’ve been married for 56 years and admit that it hasn’t always been easy. If I thought about getting divorced each time my husband upset or annoyed me, we wouldn’t have gotten past the week of sheva brachos. It seems to me that today’s newlyweds don’t want to make any sacrifices and think only of themselves. My grandson, the father of two beautiful young children, is getting divorced. He says its because he didn’t make his wife happy enough and spent too much time working at his new job. This is outrageous. Do you think this younger generation is too selfish?

Answer: First of all, congratulations on 56 years of marriage. As you note, it wasn’t easy – and it’s not supposed to be. It is always inspiring to hear stories of a life long commitment to marriage. I only wish you would share with us some of your secrets to marital longevity. Surely, your primary one was the expectations you had going into your marriage. There’s no doubt that marriages today begin differently than those of yesteryear. Whereas I’m not comfortable calling an entire generation “selfish,” I am comfortable discussing your sage point about sacrificing.

Successful marriages have some commonalities, one of them being the realistic expectation that each spouse will make sacrifices. Taking it a step further, it’s really about contentment. We live in a world where we are often taught not to be content. While we are expected to consistently strive for more, this doesn’t mean we should live in a perpetual state of unrest. The successful couple is one who is looking to expand their devotion for each other into something more, while at the same time, recalling the ongoing love that already exists. You can want to spend more time having fun with your spouse while simultaneously being grateful for the positive relationship you now have and the time you presently spend together.

Contentment lies at the heart of a happy marriage and life. However, some confuse contentment with a lackadaisical attitude; if I’m content, I won’t work hard to change. But contentment is about counting your blessings, knowing things could be worse and not taking for granted the positive in your marriage. The beauty of being content with your spouse is that it inspires you to make those sacrifices for each other and not feel that something has been taken away from you. Rather, you’ve added significantly to the marriage, the family and the love that is being nurtured. You have done this by thinking of each other and putting some of your wants on the back burner.

Naturally, this style of marital behavior works when both spouses are in sync in this concept. It becomes unhealthy if only one spouse is comfortable sacrificing and the other is quite happy being sacrificed for. (That is why no one from outside the marriage relationship can judge, because we can’t know the balance or lack thereof.) Relationships are built on a reciprocal give and take. It’s never an exact quid pro quo, but there has to be a feeling that each one wants to make the other happy and a desire to find that ongoing contentment together. Surely, there are those whose very “needs” are not being met. But again, the definition of “need” versus “want” is in the eyes of the beholder.

Try telling yourself you want to be content. Remove the word sacrifice for a while because it always sounds like something’s being taken away. When your spouse isn’t the way you’d like him or her to be, don’t tell yourself you have to accept it and make the sacrifice. Instead, use that moment to recall some of the wonderful things about your spouse, reminding yourself that no one has it all. Make that sacrifice gracefully, with love and the knowledge that this is part of what marriage is all about. Remember that you want your spouse to overlook some of your less than spectacular traits and find you wonderful. You don’t want him or her always thinking about all the sacrifices he/she needs to make living with you.

Connect To Love

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Dear Gary,

I have begun dating someone who I like very much. However, there is one issue that has raised a red flag. He talks about his mother a lot – in a good way. They have a very close relationship. However, some of my girlfriends (one who is married and does not get along with her mother-in-law) told me to beware of marrying a “Momma’s boy” because then you’re marrying his mother. Is this a real concern when dating?

Concerned

Dear Concerned,

Having a good relationship with Mom and being a Momma’s boy isn’t the same thing. First of all, I’d be wary of someone who does not like his mother. This doesn’t mean he can’t be a great husband, but in all likelihood it would be a greater challenge for him than for someone who gets along well with his mother. Remember that a young man’s primary female relationship is with his mother. His attitude and opinion of her will likely be brought into every other significant female relationship he experiences. If he is demeaning or makes dismissive jokes about his mother, he may be doing the same about his wife one day. However, even then with some focus and psychological work, anyone can overcome struggles and learn to create a genuinely loving relationship with his wife – even if he perceives that he’s had a troubled relationship with his mother.

So, how can you know when it’s more than just a nice relationship with his mother, something that you’d want and encourage in a husband? When you feel there is a controlling element handed down from mother to son. If you feel that he’s unable to make common personal decisions without the approval of his mother AND that his mother is very comfortable making these decisions for him (meaning she’s not so approving), be aware – it is likely Momma will be making decisions for you as well. It’s a stage that every person experiences, considering parents’ sage advice in making our own decision instead of having parents make the decision for us. It is a smooth transition for some but difficult for others.

As your dating progresses and you feel closer, simply bring the topic up and discuss it in a kind and respectful manner. It’s always to your advantage to get used to being communicative about these kinds of issues, so that both of you can develop your style of decision making together.

M. Gary Neuman is a psychotherapist, rabbi and New York Times best selling author. He is a frequent guest on the Oprah show as well as multiple appearances on Today, the View, NPR and others. He and his work have been featured in magazines including Time, People, Parents, Redbook, and newspapers including USA Today, the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. He consults with couples and families throughout the world and has a private practice in Miami Beach where he lives with his wife and five children. To contact him, visit:
www.mgaryneuman.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/connect-to-love-4/2010/09/01/

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