Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Passover, Pac-Man, Progress

Our son had a wonderful time at the family Seder last night.

Things got off to a good start when Kai thanked his Aunt Karolyn for inviting him. That he said it clearly enough for her to hear and understand him was especially nice. Things like that may be something that parents of typical kids can take for granted (then again, maybe not), but we really notice when Kai communicates well with others. He also happily greeted the other family members.

He couldn’t wait to get started with the Seder. I was a bit relieved to see the same Haggadah booklets on the table that he was familiar with from last year, the one that takes you through the Seder in 20 easy steps. I had some anxiety about Kai getting upset if a different booklet did not lay things out the exact same way.

As we got started, the other kids, and the adults, too, for that matter, wanted to go straight to step #16 – eating dinner. But, Kai, of course, was happy to go through all of the steps.

We took turns reading the Haggadah. Some of the steps were written in both Hebrew and English, though most of us read only the English parts. But when it was Kai’s turn to read the Four Questions, he insisted on reading both in English and Hebrew (which was shown in both Hebrew and Roman characters). I won’t vouch for his pronunciation, but his effort was outstanding.

When step #10, the Ten Plagues, was completed, Kai began singing Dayenu, the traditional song of Passover, which was step #11. The rest of us were happy to have that be a solo, and let Kai go on with his enthusiastic version.

He enjoyed eating his gluten-free matzo, and the charoset was his favorite food. As we settled into dinner, Kai was behaving remarkably well.

But, for my wife and I, no matter how well our son is behaving at the moment, we always have an inner nervousness that things will change. When Kai finished his meal before anyone else, my nervousness rose.

We hadn’t brought our portable dvd player or Kai’s element cards or anything else to keep him entertained. Being done with dinner, he said he wanted to watch tv. The television had been on when we arrived, but it was turned off when we began the Seder.

We told Kai that he would have to ask Aunt Karolyn if he could watch tv. She explained to him that it would stay off until everyone was finished with dinner but then he could watch. I was surprised that Kai seemed okay with that. A couple times he came back to the dinner table to check to see how much longer it would be before everyone was done eating, but he didn’t hover like a waiter who is hoping to turn over a table.

When dinner was over, he politely asked for the television to be turned on. Though, he really didn’t watch much of it. He was more interested in taking turns playing games on his cousin’s iPhone and iPod.

This boy, who hates to wait, waited nicely for his turn while his cousins played. This boy, who usually doesn’t want to play electronic games, as he prefers to watch Mom or Dad play instead, wanted to play the games on the iPod.

He was especially enthralled with Pac-Man. I hadn’t played Pac-Man since I was in college but it was funny to see that it was still addictively fun for this new generation of kids.

After that, it was time to leave. We all had had a wonderful time.

Later in the evening, my wife recalled how Kai had behaved when we had gone to Karolyn’s house for Passover when he was four years old. He couldn’t be left alone for one second. He didn’t interact with anyone. He wouldn’t be happy unless he was watching a dvd.

And, so, we realize that, despite our day-to-day frustrations, he has come a long way. He is making a lot of progress.

The word "Dayenu" means approximately "it would have been enough for us.” Having a pleasant evening with family would have been enough for us. Seeing our son’s remarkable progress makes us have even greater appreciation.

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