This morning I found myself in a debate with my 3 1/2 year old daughter. When I said that Chanukah starts tomorrow evening and we'll have fun lighting candles and exchanging gifts, she said, "And eating chocolate coins." I said, "Well, we can do that too, but we're going to have so much fun playing dreidel and eating latkes," and she said, "And eating chocolate coins." In a last-ditch effort to emphasize the true meaning of Chanukah, I said, "The only thing we have to do is light the candles--the rest is just fun." And she replied, "But we have to eat chocolate coins."
At her Jewish preschool, and then at a Chanukah event at a Jewish day school, my daughter tasted chocolate coins. Now, it is abundantly clear that more than candles, latkes, and gifts, the true spirit of Chanukah can be expressed through chocolate.
This entire day I have been wrestling with that all-important parenting question: Why do I care? It is not the measure of my worth as a Jewish mother or rabbi whether my preschooler cares more about chocolate coins than lighting the candles. I have to trust that she will enjoy the aspects of the holiday as they unfold--candles, foods, gifts, programs with our Temple, dinners with friends. Chocolate coins will be just one part of a constellation of treats and joys during these eight days.
My answer, as best I can figure, is that I forget she is only 3. She speaks so clearly, seems to understand (or at least hear) so much, so I find myself surprised when she says something that is so clearly her age.
I could make this about me, or I could make this about her. This is probably the first Chanukah she will really remember--so I'm going to make it fun, special, and truly on her level. I imagine that if I make this a fun Chanukah for her, it will be my best Chanukah yet!
Now, you can be sure I am off to the store to buy some chocolate coins :-)