Family Matters: One Seder night too many

Conflict resolution expert advises what to do when separated parents each want you to share Passover with them.

Seder plate 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Seder plate 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Dave asks: “My parents separated, sadly, a few months ago. Since they’re not really on the best terms, they are each arranging a Seder feast. I was invited to both and don’t know what to do. I love both my parents and don’t want to side with one of them. I want to spend the Seder together like every year, but also don’t want one of my parents to end up spending it alone. How do I prevent what looks like it’s going to be a huge fight with one or both of my parents?
Seeing parents fight or not speak to each other can be hard on their child at any age. Much harder, is when their conflict affects the relationship with the children and disrupts the everyday routine.
It looks like Dave’s parents are drawing him deep into their conflict. Perhaps the parents don’t mean to do so, but they are forcing their son to make some decisions no one is going to be happy with.
So, is there anything Dave can do that will stop his parents’ feud from growing into a major family conflict?
Use the Game Theory
You can tell both your parents you will only spend Passover with a parent that is willing to share the Passover table with the other parent.  By doing that, you leave both your parents with an option: they can either refuse and be left spending the Passover on their own, or agree and spend it with you. There is of course the chance that one of your parents will agree and one will refuse, and you’ll then have to spend Passover with that one parent.
But be careful. What might seem like a success - getting both your parents to agree spending Passover together - might then turn to be your downfall. Your parents might agree to come and be civil, but in fact throw sarcastic comments around the table all night long or just ignore each other’s existence. I’m not sure this is what you had in mind when you thought of a family Seder table.
Leshana Habaa (Next Year)
Your parents’ breakup is still fresh. They might still be processing their new statuses. It defiantly sounds like they still hold very strong negative emotions for the other side. This may remain a constant or it may change completely with the passage of time. In the meantime, you should consider accepting their decision to celebrate Passover without the other parent present.
You’re still left with the dilemma- how do you choose between your two parents? Whose Seder will you attend?
You may consider talking with both your parents, explaining to them you got invitations from both of them and that it is impossible, of course, to attend both.
Tell one of your parents that you’ll be happy to spend next Passover with them and you’ll be spending Passover this year with the other parent.
One of your parents might get offended, but if you do your best explaining how much you love them both and that you’re trying to respect their wishes to not celebrate Passover together, you might be able to minimize the damage.
Time to travel
People say there is nothing prettier than Paris in the springtime. Or in other words, it’s been a hard year for all three of you. It might be most sensible on your side to go somewhere far away for Passover this year.
It’s true that both your parents would be upset that you won’t be celebrating Seder with them this year, but at least they will both be equally upset with you. Neither of them will feel like you’ve sided with the other parent, and that must be better than nothing.
There is no question that Passover this year is not going to be like the Passover you were used to in the past. Your parents’ decision to break up has had a major impact on your life as well as their own. You’re a good son to give so much thought to not hurting them through your decisions. Let’s hope that by next year the situation will cool down enough that they will be able to put more thought into their actions, making sure you won’t get hurt by them either.

Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at [email protected].
This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.