Shabbos with children is an interesting, yet of course, highly usual, phenomenon. We all learned, since we were little, that Shabbos is a day of rest. Children seem to follow the literal definition, the prohibition of the 39 types of work. Adults would like to expand on the notion and catch a nap. Here is where conflict arises…
It begins with lighting candles. Children can often turn this intensely spiritual moment into a loud, scary experience. Running around the house, squealing, pulling on your skirt while you’re trying to light—it doesn’t exactly enhance the mitzvah for me. I once learned that when you gaze at the candles, or it may be before or as you’re lighting them, you should think of the berachah of your children. I said at the time it is easier to think of your children as a berachah when they are actually sleeping. Everyone laughed. I wasn’t joking.
Then comes decision time – to feed the little berachahs, or not. It can be a tricky question with many variables. How late is it? How tired do they seem? How hungry are they? Will they “make it” until the meal? Would you feed them milchig or fleishig? Does is it involve opening the warming drawer? How does your husband feel about it? I put that last because let’s face it, he’s not the one listening to the complaints and he probably won’t even know whether they ate while he was away. Probably.
Alas, like Santa for other people, Tatty comes home. Everyone cheers. The seudah can begin. Hopefully everyone who stayed up this long, can sit at the table and eat like a mentch. Or they may switch into overtired mode, chasing each other around the table. 50/50 odds. Baruch Hashem, we get to eat the seudah, hear some divrei Torah, maybe even from the kiddies, and then head to shluff. Or the ones who inadvertently went to bed hungry wake up just as you’re pulling the cover over yourself and request food.
The sun rises. No alarm clocks to wake you. Only the children and they of course fulfill that responsibility very well. I am privileged to have children’s groups at my shul. So my husband takes the older children and I supposedly have quiet time with the baby. Sometimes depending on when they leave, when the baby is done eating and falls asleep etc, I have a whole 15 minutes of quiet. Then, it’s off to meet everyone at shul. I hope to one day go to shul to daven, but with a young baby, bli ayin ha’ra, I can’t sit during davening for the baby is too noisy, and babies aren’t allowed in groups, so I just go to shul to meet up with everyone and socialize a little.
On the way home, the troupes request their social calendars. I try to do all or nothing. Have playdates for everyone at my house at the same time, playdates for everyone at friend’s houses at the same time, or no playdates at the same time. I believe this works best for maximum efficiency. The children begin raising their objections at this point.
I sometimes enjoy long summer Shabboses. If I get a nap, the world is better. The games I play with the children afterwards are entertaining. The children are so bright and loveable. Reading books with them is so cozy. Playing outside is such a great experience. If I don’t get a nap, buyer beware. The games are boring and annoying. The children are demanding. Why can’t they not interrupt when I read them books? Why are there so many bugs outside? You catch my drift.
So, that in a nutshell is Shabbos with children. Is this how things work in your house too? Please share in the comments.