My grandchildren, ages 3 and 4, were at my house and heard someone use the word “party pooper.” If you have any experience with preschoolers, you know that this is the best word ever. It is a legitimate word, you can use it to describe people, and it contains the word “poop.” Fifteen minutes of laughter, teasing each other and rolling on the floor ensued when they heard the word used. Needless to say, I was done about one minute into this. After all, I am the responsible adult, concerned that they were going to hurt each other rolling around.
So, suddenly we have a Jewish holiday that commands us to be silly. It is easy to help our kids dress up and schlepp to the local Purim carnival where we will buy hamentashen and let them play with graggers. However, the commandment isn’t to let our kids have fun. Adults are supposed to hear the Megillah, boo the villain, cheer the heroes, share gifts with friends and have a drink or two. It was one way for the Rabbis to help us deal with certain moral ambiguities of the Megillat Esther. It also provides a chance to relax before we start the preparations for Pesach and solemnity of the period of counting the omer.
One of the best things about this holiday is the opportunity for us to model for our children the importance of taking time to be silly. We sometimes are so obsessed with setting a good example, we forget to just have fun. Adults can wear costumes and use graggers. Baking hamentashen with kids is a great activity and you can stuff them with all sorts of creative fillings (peanut butter and chocolate chip hamentaschen are not traditional, but they are yummy). Let your kitchen by messy during the process. Laugh about the fact that in Hebrew they are not called Haman’s Hat (Yiddish), but Haman’s Ears. Let kids help make your costume (I still wear each year the crown my son, now 37, made for me when he was 4). See who can make the most noise when hearing Haman’s name. It is a reminder that children need to hear us laugh and sing silly songs, and find reasons to roll on the floor with them. We all need to just take a deep breath sometimes and share giggles. Why should our kids have all of the fun?
Judy Callahan is director of B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool and a member of PJTC.