Passover is finally here. I’ve been scrubbing, dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and washing. I’ve been shopping, laundering and cooking. I’ve been paranoid, nagging and scaring the daylights out of my family if they dare bring one accidental crumb of leaven into my house. And all for what?

In the past, as I prepared for Passover, I did it knowing that come Seder night, I would be free. Not only would I be free from cleaning and cooking, but I would experience freedom through special spiritual intentions and deep commentaries practiced and read during the Seder. It would be a moving experience that would bring me closer to my Creator and Jewish history. It was a night I would truly look forward to all year.

In years past I deeply resented what my Seder had becomeIn the past, I was not a mother of two young children. In the past I lived in one-bedroom apartments and not a four-bedroom house. In the past I could stay up all night without aching for my bed. In the past I was young and free. So it wasn’t all that hard to experience joy and redemption.

It’s not that I’m old now. Nor am I imprisoned, or, G‑d forbid, living in a country that restricts my freedom in any way. Yet everything is different now. By the time the Seder night comes, I hardly feel like meditating on the concept of freedom. And even if I did, my children would never allow it. I mean, really, can you ask a five-year-old to be quiet for more than the time it takes to make kiddush? How about your one-year-old? Is it even possible to sit at the table for the whole of the Seder?

In years past I deeply resented what my Seder had become. A large babysitting session where I have to try and keep my children quiet, still, and entertained. “Don’t interrupt,” repeated over and over to no avail. Cries of “I’m hungry” answered with, “yeah, well, me too.” And after all the cooking and cleaning I’m not sure who was more tired, me or them. “But it’s only eleven PM,” my husband would protest, as I wished the whole thing would be finished already. Not quite the spiritual experience I used to look forward to.

Then last year my husband and I tried something different. We decided to take the commandment of the Seder seriously. Tell it to your children. This wasn’t about us and our experience. This was about telling our children about who we are as Jews, what G‑d has done for us. This was about getting them excited for the Seder. This was about starting a family tradition that will hopefully be passed to their children. Last year we made the Seder fun.

We invited only a few close friends who were sensitive to our needs and excited for the focus to be on our kids. And since there weren’t so many of us, all the cooking wasn’t so much cooking. This kept the normally unaffordable costs down. No one was bothered by the constant snacking of the greens on the Seder plate, done so that no one get too grouchy before the actual meal. And we prepared.

The preparation was quite different than in years past. It did not focus only on seeking out favorite commentaries and highlighting deep passages. It also involved a trip to Target. It is amazing how much fun you can have on a budget. Little plastic bugs for lice, red bouncy balls for hail, squishy frogs and farm animals . . . all affordable. When it came time to name the plagues, we didn’t just name them, we played!

This wasn’t about us and our experienceThere were other fun things too. We took a blue piece of fabric, taped home-cut paper fish to it, cut it in half, and guess what? We had our very own Splitting of the Red Sea! Two paper towel rolls taped together became a staff. And these were projects our children could help make beforehand. Things to keep them busy while we cleaned.

Online there are endless resources . . . pages of Passover songs put to the tunes of the Beatles and other favorites. We have friends who hang sheets from the ceiling to create a tent. It feels like you’re having the very first Seder the Jews ever had in the desert. We put a piece of plywood on books and sat on the floor of the living room. It gave the meal a feeling that tonight is truly different from all other nights. We also used paper tablecloths and plasticware. Nothing to stain, nothing to break, no one to yell at.

Was it a deeply spiritual experience? In a way, yes. We experienced joy and freedom from stress. We gave our children an experience they could carry with them. A positive, fun experience of Judaism that hopefully they will pass on to their children. We relaxed. I relaxed. I didn’t have to try so hard to find and feel the meaning of the night, because I was just living it. Tell it to your children. We told the haggadah over to our children and found a new appreciation in it for ourselves. And before we knew it, it was three in the morning and time to get ready to do it all again the next day!