My kid’s school decided to take the Pur out of Purim and I’m bummed.
Usually at Purim, school children are asked to make mishloach manot – the traditional basket of Purim goodies, to take to class. A ‘pur‘ or draw then occurs and the baskets are swapped with classmates and a sugar fest ensues (Purim comes just once a year, thank goodness).
In years gone by, you could put whatever you wanted into the basket, but the differences in quality, quantity and attractiveness made parents uncomfortable and kids disappointed, so most schools and kindergartens now ask you to adhere to a list of what to put in.
My kids school (and others too) have gone one further –the Parent’s Committee now buys and prepares the Purim baskets and everyone gets exactly the same, with the rationale of ‘reducing competitiveness.’ (Which by the way is a crazy explanation because the real competition, expense and head-ache is the Purim costume).
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that sourcing, ordering, preparing and distributing 800 baskets is no mean feat and shows what a hard-working and devoted bunch the committee is – and their intentions are good. Doing it this way saves parents the nuisance of having to buy and make the baskets themselves and it saves their kids being disappointed by comparison – everyone happy, right? Not me, for me it misses the point.
Making a Purim basket and exchanging it with a classmate is the third best thing about Purim for kids (behind dressing up and 3 days of vacation) and it’s a mitzvah mentioned in the Book of Esther. It’s fun to raid the sweet tin, make Purim biscuits (kids are challenged by folding pastry circles into the uniquely triangular shape), write or draw a greeting card, wrap it all up and behold it sitting there, scrumptiously waiting for delivery. It’s rewarding to give a present to a friend and it’s exciting to receive one and open it up to see what’s inside.
It’s not only rewarding and exciting, it’s damned important. Learning to give and receive are major, no, humungous life lessons – something completely missing in the impersonal and uniform system that my kid’s school has adopted. More than that, the decision to centralize was really based on preventing children from being disappointed by their allotted, perchance less tasty, less plentiful, less attractive baskets – which is entirely understandable, but I have a problem with usurping that experience too.
Dealing with disappointment is something we need to give our little darlings the opportunity to learn and we don’t need to do parenting cartwheels to prevent it, belittle it or fix it. Let your kids tell you about their disappointment, validate their feelings and then give them a big hug. Your empathy will be sweeter than any of the candy they didn’t get to eat.
In the meantime, I’ll be giving my kids the opportunity to make a Purim basket and donate it to any of the charities mentioned in Naomi Feinmesser’s post: Who will YOU be sending mishloach manot to this year?