The grinch who stole Purim

Why working parents should be exempt from the holiday.

February 24, 2010 22:29
3 minute read.
Children in costume during Purim.

purim costumes 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])


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I'm going to kill myself," my husband said dramatically on a bad cellphone connection as I stepped off the bus this morning. "I forgot the twins were supposed to wear a 'partial' costume this morning. And this is after yesterday when I forgot they were supposed to dress up for their dance lesson!"

For our four-year-old twins, these were grave matters indeed. Especially for the girl, who passionately worships all things pink, princess or fairy. (Note: I was out of the country last week and am thus exempt from blame - this time.)

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"Look on the bright side," I told him. "You did remember pajama day last week and gave me the note about bringing chocolate spread tomorrow and we know they're supposed to dress up on Friday... And what is a 'partial' costume?!"

"I hate Purim," he replied through gritted teeth.

Sighing, I agreed.

Since we moved to Israel and had kids, Purim - a holiday that once was merely filed under "yet-another-reason-to-close-the-JCC" - has turned into a tortuous month-long festival. The pinnacle: schools close for two days, driving working parents and retired grandparents to despair. And in the weeks leading up to the holiday, we are barraged with daily demands, encompassing the bizarre to the downright annoying.

TAKE THIS morning: All the babies in my one-year-old's day care were expected to arrive in costume.

One of our parenting survival strategies is, if the kid doesn't know there's a holiday, we don't go out of our way to make him celebrate it. (Works well with birthday parties too.)

When the twins were babies I had the brilliant idea of switching their clothes: the girl as a boy and vice versa. My best effort yet. But playing along with the baby's eager caretakers, we dressed her as usual (carefully making sure she wasn't wearing her brothers' hand-me-downs) and stuck a crown on her head. Presto! A princess.

Also, my six-year-old's entire school had a pajama day. In the morning he changed from his winter-ready "footie" pajamas to separates (so he could put shoes on and walk). Last night his dance instructor called and told me he too is meant to wear a costume for his class this afternoon. Inspired, and killing two birds with one costume, I decided he'd go as a sleepwalker.

Every day since the Hebrew month Adar began, the kids have gleefully come home with painted faces and makeshift crowns. The crowns last all of 10 minutes and their glee dissipates at bathtime when the heavy-duty face washing begins - followed by inevitable ingestion of soap and tears. One day I made the mistake of bathing them when their faces were covered with glitter. Suffice to say, they ended up more sparkling than clean.

We've had to bring matching pants and shirts to be destroyed and made into clowns' clothes, give money for mishloah manot at one school, make packages for secret swaps at another and received dozens of e-mails and entreaties from teachers asking for help in decorating the classroom/manning stations for a carnival/performing in the parents' Purim play.

My big boy said his teacher had announced to the class she was still short of volunteers and asked me to participate in the carnival. I had to tell him, "Sometimes Imma has to work - especially since we'll have fun together next week when there isn't any school," mumbling, "or legislation giving workers a day off." (Where is the pedagogical consideration for the overburdened-by-guilt working mother?)

I didn't mention though that during my half-hour lunch break I'll be dashing to the local toyshop and fighting the crowds to buy his costume.

All in all it is enough to drive a person to drink.
Bah humbug and l'haim.

The writer is the editor of The Jerusalem Post Magazine.

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