Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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About bubbyjoysandoys

Hi - I'm a kvelling grandmother who loves to write and blog about my insights and observations related to being a "bubby" as well as other favorite topics. I'm also a music therapist, author of a grandmother book, "Mazel Tov! It's a Bubby!" about the joys and "oys" of being a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. Finally, I'm a self-proclaimed expert on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships, with another site called http://milhood101.com, where I give tips to mothers-in-law for coping.

How the Election Made Me More Tolerant

The other day I was mad at a certain person in my life. Really upset. I was ranting and raving and venting to my husband about it.

Then I thought about it and slept on it. The next day I woke up, went about my day and thought about it. I started to realize that the other person has a difficult situation in his/her life and that’s why he/she is acting that way. And I started to understand where they were coming from. I wasn’t mad at that person anymore. Wow.

I believe that this election fever and overall stress gives me a chance to practice my skills of switching gears and seeing things from another point of view.

This Election has brought out the worst in many of us. People are bickering online and in person, on Facebook and on Twitter. Relationships have suffered as voting has morphed from a basic right and privilege into an unpleasant phenomenon of political arguments, fights and de-friending on and offline. Nobody wants to discuss who they are V-ting for (the V word) for fear of repercussions – both real and imagined.

And yet, in spite of the bickering these days  we can find some common ground between us.   Whether we’re voting for Trump, Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, a write-in random candidate, or none of the above, we all agree on one thing.

We are  completely stressed from the whole thing and we can’t wait till it’s all over.

There are many anxieties that we share and misery does love company in this case. We can comfort each other, knowing  it will eventually be over at the end of Election day. And yet.  We fear that things will drag on. We have nightmares of a repeat Gore-Bush situation of the hanging chads and recounting. We are tormented by the chances that one candidate may protest the result and maybe there will be a big ——-

Stop! Stop! Stop!  It’s no use obsessing about it. I mean that’s all we’ve (me!) been doing the last few months and it’s time to put an end to the negativity and prepare to move forward

It’s time to look at the bright side of all this. It’s time for ME to see the silver lining from all this and how everything happens for the best.

It’s time for me to realize that there is a Destiny or G-d or a Higher Power out there that is protecting us from horrible things. It’s time to do my best and have some faith.

It’s time grow from all this.

First, it’s time to be a little easier on myself. So what if I flip-flop every day and can’t make up my mind who to vote for because I like his or her stances on the issues – or because I just can’t stand the OTHER candidate. So what? Right?

Here’s my process: I listen and read everything I come across. I do lots of research. And I decide that I’m in favor Candidate A and I’m totally for him/her. I mean I think she/he is aligned with all or most of the values that I believe in. And not only that, I’m convinced that the other candidate is the epitome of evil.

And then – I go to sleep, wake up in the morning, read a few articles and voila, I’m thinking “Hey, so and so really represents my view of how things can be better – based on my values and what I consider to be important for a President.”

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I start to challenge my previous decision. I realize that there is a whole other way to look at things. And I make my decision to (maybe) vote for the other candidate.

This cycle repeats itself several times per week. It’s been somewhat annoying because as Election date is upon us, I’m still undecided. And I’ve even pondered voting for a third party candidate or not at all.

I’ve been thinking about this flip-flop tendency of mine and been pretty upset with myself over it. And then it hit me the other day that maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Maybe it’s actually a sign that I can see two sides of a situation, empathize with it and be able to argue both sides of the debate.

Through this election I learned that I’m fickle, somewhat gullible. Or maybe it’s just that I’m open-minded or tolerant? Hmmm. To me things are not always black and white, and that characteristic is more evident this election.

After this election is over, we will still have our relationships with friends (hopefully) and even if the issues of the election will be behind us all, we will still need to reach across aisles to feel another person’s pain and experience.

Understanding another’s viewpoint is important. That’s what I learned from this election. I see Hillary’s viewpoint and I see Trump’s. I get them both. I just have to decide which one I’m willing to give the job of President.

I’ve not made my firm decision yet on that. But one thing I’ve decided is that for better or worse – I can’t stay upset at people for very long.

And that’s something I think we all should vote for.

 

 


A Tribute to My Father on his YahrTzeit

What do you say when someone asks you for information that is readily available on the Internet?

Google it! That’s code for “Look it up. Figure it out. You can do it….”

My siblings and I reminisce that my father would encourage our independence in learning new things, by telling us to  “look it up.”

In honor of  the yahrtzeit or anniversary of my father’s passing two years ago, I write this blog post. This one’s for you, Daddy.

Shalom Stern, or Shalom ben Shlomo (the son of Solomon) Halevi (a descendant of the Levites) passed away after a diagnosis 14 years earlier of Parkinson’s Disease. My father passed on September 28, 2014 but the Hebrew date falls on today’s Hebrew date which is the day after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Today we lit a candle that lasts for 24 hours and my brothers recited kaddish in my father’s memory.

My father was a paradigm of punctuality. Descending from German ancestors, his motto was “a place for everything…everything in its place.” This time of year which precedes the holiday of Sukkos has a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes which reads, “A time to mourn, a time to rejoice…..a time for everything.” Similarly, my father believed that there is a time for everything and he stuck to a sensible daily schedule in his life.

My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium May 27, 1926. He attended Cheder (traditional Jewish elementary school) there along with his sister. He had a relatively uneventful childhood with his parents, many cousins and friends in the little town where they lived. In the early 1940’s,  the political situation changed and they left their home and moved from country to country, town to town, living over the next few years in France, Portugal, Cuba, followed by the U.S.

IMGThis is my paternal grandmother

According to stories we heard from my father and my aunt, “everything was an adventure” during these unstable times. Yes, they were afraid but it didn’t cripple them. They trusted their parents, prayed and continued on with their  daily activities and schooling in each place that they lived. Time to be afraid and time to move on. My aunt recalls saying the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in her bed as the war planes were flying in earshot. My father spoke about his countless stories of escape and survival into a recording and one of my nephews created a CD for all the family which I cherish.

When my dad came to the U.S. at age 16 (1942), he attended high school in Brooklyn and learned the English language rapidly. After high school he continued in with his Jewish studies in a local yeshiva while attending Brooklyn College to earn a degree in Economics. In 1949, my father met my mother and they married that year in June. He went into business while my mother stayed home with the children and together they raised a family of six children. They were the matriarch and patriarch of  many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

dadyoung

My father had a very disciplined and hard working nature. I was proud to have such a “perfect” father who was so smart, wise, kind, learned and accomplished. On the other hand, there was this pressure to keep up, to do things correctly. My husband spoke at a small memorial meal that we sponsored in my father’s memory last Shabbos (Saturday). One of my husband’s key comments was that he felt that our father was someone to look up to, to emulate and to aspire to be like.

He had a meticulous schedule in which he rose early, prayed, studied Talmud, ate breakfast, went to work and then came home at the same time each night. Looking back, it seems kind of idyllic in some ways. The predictability, the security and all that. At the same time as I said there was this pressure to do good work. It was sort of an unspoken expectation of “You can do it. You will do it.” Each one of us siblings has differing interests. But, we each try to do our best in whatever we do.

daddyThis is my father speaking at a family event in the final year of his life.

My father learned and studied Torah deeply and often could be found in his study poring over books either alone or with one or several grandchildren. Even in the last days when his PD had progressed to its worst symptoms of not being able to talk above a whisper, my father enjoyed listening to stories about Torah. This energized him. I believe this means my father was a very spiritual person.

Additionally, in his life, my father was active in founding a girls’ high school in our community and he gave charity to many institutions around. My father had a witty sense of humor, enjoyed being around people and socializing in the free time that he had. He liked traveling, people and words.

momdadMy Mom and Dad

Just this morning, I asked my brother a question and my brother’s return text to me was “as Daddy would say, ‘look it up!'”

I recall my father’s study with his unabridged dictionary and huge atlas along with many encyclopedias and books surrounding him, we always had to resources to “look it up.”

As we come out of the two intense days of the New Year and move forward into the 10 days bridge until Yom Kippur, I make that my new mantra. Whenever I struggle with something, I will think of my father and how he used all his abilities to look things up, to figure things out and to grow. I will remember his motto of a time for everything, a place for everything.

Whether I’m studying, reading, learning, blogging, working or socializing, I will be mindful of doing things carefully and properly to the best of my ability at the appropriate time.

My father was a tough act to follow – but definitely someone to aspire to. All in the right time.

May his memory be blessed.

daddymatzeivah

 

 


10 Things You’re Doing that Drive Your New Daughter-in-law Crazy….and How to Fix Them

milhoodladies2

I originally wrote this post for my website page that offers help exclusively for mothers-in-law on how to cope. I launched that page in 2013 and this was my first broadcast I sent out.

Well, I’ve come a long way since then. Many people have corresponded with me through that site with questions on how to cope. I have tried to answer their queries to the best of my abilities based on my own and on others’ experiences shared with me. However, I sometimes wonder whether I have fallen behind in some of these skills. Having had several more sons get married thank G-d, increasing my number of daughters-in-law to four (and counting!), I’ve had some tricky scenarios occur in our family(and no, I will not share them in this post!). I can picture my daughters-in-law reading this and thinking, “Hmmm…” Yes, confession: I have broken these rules (from time to time!).

Rereading my own tips leads to me realizing I need a tune-up and some studying of my own rules.

So in hopes of increasing my own commitment to these guidelines and possibly helping others in the process, I’ve decided to rewrite and slightly revise them with updated 2016 situations such as text and what’s-app and Facebook. So, without further ado, here they are:

10 Things That Drive Your DIL crazy….and how to fix them

1. You call your daughter-in-law too much. The rule of newlyweds is “don’t call – let them call you.” By your calling them, you may be pressuring them to talk when they may be busy with something else.

How to fix:

a) Tell your new couple that for the first few months, you are available if they need you – and mean it. Make a commitment to them never to call them in the beginning. When I was a new mother-in-law, I remember picking up the phone…and putting it down. It took all my inner strength to refrain from calling.

b) If they call you, return their call within a reasonable period of time, and help them out if you can. This will build trust as they realize you are there for them, while not hovering over them. Better to let them find a time that works for them and call you, rather than put them on the spot. This applies to leaving messages too.

c) You may text or “what’s-app” them but do so with just information that you are giving them about something upcoming in the family, rather than with expectations of them to respond.

2. You compare your own family members to your daughter-in-law and/or her family. Okay, you’re proud of your own family and biological children. Fine. But, by comparing openly or talking about another person too much, you may be giving the unwitting impression that you don’t value your new daughter-in-law as an individual.

How to fix:

a) When you are with your dil, don’t share or brag about your own family. At least in the beginning few months, be a listener, more than a talker and sharer.

b) As a side note, this comparison factor may come into play when the various couples start to have children. It’s best to listen to your individual daughters-in-law share and discuss about their children, without interjecting comparisons about another of your daughter-in-law’s children.

3. You ask open-ended questions such as what she is making for dinner, or how she spends her time. To you that may be a matter of conversation, but to her it is personal and perhaps not something of interest to her.  Starting conversations with a question can only lead to defensiveness, or feeling pressured into sharing.

How to fix:

a) Avoid appearing curious and asking too many personal questions.

b) Allow the relationship to build through your sharing with her and then letting her share spontaneously.

4. You give her advice that she does not ask for, or you give your son advice about something that pertains to both or one of them. When your children get married, they are under new management. They are adults in charge of their own life. By you offering advice, you are demonstrating that you still see them as children. They should know that you are there for them (as much as you can) when they ask. But never ever offer unsolicited advice. Whether it’s about housekeeping, finances, child-raising, health. Anything.

How to fix:

a) No advice at all. Only if they ask. And even then, reflect back to them by saying, “So what are your options? How do you want to handle it?”

b) Now, it’s okay to say, “if you need any help, feel free to ask” to them or to offer your opinion – ONE time, but then you need to drop it. Try never to bring it up again.

5. You criticize and find fault with her. This will drive her crazy and will drive a wedge between you and her. If you see your son or daughter-in-law doing things “wrong” in your eyes, keep you mouth shut. Do not criticize her. Ever. Let’s say she makes bagels and cream cheese for dinner five days a week (maybe an extreme example). Don’t say anything about it. Don’t offer advice on other nutritional offerings (see rule #4). And don’t tell her how unhealthy an unbalanced it is to serve such dinners. Just let it be. Whatever she does or is, is not your business.

How to fix:

a)  If you notice that you are criticizing too much, stop.

b)  Apologize if she or they were hurt and resolve to never find fault.

c)  Realize they are a married couple and if you want them to be happy, then finding fault with either one of them is not going to create good feelings or happiness between you.

d) Maybe find a friend or mentor to share and vent with about your thoughts. Try to find solutions within yourself to reframe situations so that you don’t appear critical.

6. You rarely praise your couple and/or daughter-in-law. Not only is it important to avoid criticizing (rule 5), but you must find ways to praise them sincerely. A mother-in-law who rarely finds good in her daughter-in-law is at best going to have a stilted relationship. You can offer the praise to your son about her, some of the time. It doesn’t have to be always to her, but still she must know that you approve of her. If you don’t approve in some areas, find other areas that you do approve and make sure she knows.

How to fix:

a) Make a list of things that you appreciate about them and try to remember to point out every now and then when you truly admire something they did.

b) Be grateful in your heart for their good qualities and make mention of them from time to time.

7. You pop into their home without calling first. I don’t think I have ever popped into my married couple’s apartment without calling(or texting, emailing or calling) first. Even if you have something you want to bring them or give them, never just show up.

How to fix:

a) Always call to ask if you can come before even considering coming to them.

b) If you have something you want to give them, leave it in a special place in your home and mention to them that the next time they are over they can come get it.

8. You follow up on issues or events that they confide in you about. Let’s say your children share with you such as a visit to the doctor, or a challenge they’ve had with something. While it’s okay to follow up afterward with friends in such a situation and say “hey, how did that go…” – with daughters-in-law and especially newly married couples, it’s best not to keep tabs on their private lives. They shared. Fine. Let it go. Maybe in a few weeks or months, you can say “by the way what happened with that?” But in the meantime, don’t go there. What you view as concern, they may view as intrusiveness.

How to fix:

a) Try not to obsess about things they share with you. Unless it’s an ongoing thing that they may need support with, just put the details of their life out of your mind.

b) In your daily prayers, offer a thought or beckoning for help in whatever area they (or you) may be struggling.

c) Keep busy in your own life and you will resist the urge to follow uop.

9. You remind them about invitations and obligations. This can be a biggie. You know, thank you cards after the wedding or after a baby is born. Right? You have the urge to remind them of keeping to the family tradition of good manners. Right?  Or here’s another one: Let’s say there’s a wedding in the family. Everyone has received an invitation that you know of. It’s probably best not to prompt the new couple and say, “don’t forget we have that wedding….” Or even worse, “Um…please be on time to the wedding…” This will drive them up a wall. They may have their own plans or agenda for that day and it’s between them and the hosts whether they come. You can ask casually if you will see them there. But to actually prompt them and remind them as if they are children is not appropriate.

How to fix:

a) Realize that their behaviors are not a reflection of you. They are their own entity now and their coming or not coming to an event on time (or at all) should have no bearing on you and don’t be involved.

10. You insist that they come visit. It’s perfectly okay and wonderful to invite your married children for a weekend or ask them to come over for the afternoon on a Sunday or evening. But when inviting becomes insisting, you are instilling pressure and having expectations.

How to fix:

a) When they do come to visit you, make your home a pleasant and fun place to hang out. They will be more likely to come by more often.

Conclusion:

Remember that the more we mix in and the more expectations we have, the more we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. All of the above missteps are okay once in awhile.

We are all human and perfection is not the goal. I have made many of the above mistakes and learned from them in the process. Just be aware and be careful, and if you make a mistake, discuss it and move on. And yes, fix it using the tips for fixing above. That’s what it’s all about – improving and repairing our relationships that need it.


Copyright 2013 by Miriam Hendeles

Original Source: http://bubbyjoysandoys.com/miriam-hendeles-2  or http://miriamhendeles.com

Email: Miriamhendeles@gmail.com

 

 

 

 


Life is Grand at the Old Ballgame

It’s a week or two before the Jewish New Year, with lots to do in preparation for this auspicious time of year. Still, it’s a good a time as any for  my husband and I to spend quality time with our grandchildren. Since every summer we have a tradition to take our two young grandsons (now ages 5 1/2 and 8 1/2) to watch a ballgame, we found time to do that last night.

Admittedly we were a bit delayed with the ritual due to our older son’s wedding a few weeks ago. But, we did end up finding a good time on our calendar. And so, my husband – whose favorite childhood pastime was baseball- and I  headed off last night with our baseball fan grandsons to Dodger Stadium.

Last night Los Angeles Dodgers play against the San Francisco Giants. Even though both teams are from our home state, we naturally rooted for the Dodgers.

One of my grandsons wore his fun  Jackie Robinson shirt with “Brooklyn” scrawled across the front. And our younger grandson said, “I go for the Dodgers.” I could tell by their cheers of “Let’s go Dodgers!” throughout the game that they really did want the Dodgers to win.

Win or lose, what could be bad about a night out (past their bedtimes) to the ballpark? What’s more fun than home made hot dogs taken along in a plastic bag, buying super expensive drinks at the park, and sitting with baseball caps cheering and watching the Dodgers play  the Giants?

And what could be more exciting and hearwarming for us than taking our grandsons out for a night, watching them enjoy themselves, and just having the quality time with them?

In this day and age, when life seems sometimes doom and gloom, we couldn’t have asked for a more fun night.

It started off with my husband coming home early from work so we could get an early start out for the 7:10 game. No such luck. We left at 6:15 later than planned with two eager guys in the backseat, holding onto their mitts in the hopes of catching a fly ball

Pretty soon we hit traffic before reaching the freeway. But our spirits were high and so were the boys’ spirits  as they talked about all their favorite and not-so-favorite sports teams. We kept our eyes on the eventual road signs pointing to Dodger Stadium.

Eventually we arrived, parked and walked quickly to the ticket booth. The game had already started, but the boys  were already glued to the screens visible from the ticket booths. While my husband negotiated seats with the salesperson, the boys were focused on one thing only: The Game.

As I said, life is good at the ballpark. Here they are waiting in line.

ballpic

We got our tickets and found our seats which turned out to be really great ones. And even though the game crawled — hey baseball is a slow game — the kids seemed to have a grand time. And even though their team was losing –with Giants leading 1-0 for most of the time, my grandsons had that glimmer in their eyes, of focus and attention.

And an exciting game it was – with the Giants in the lead till the 9th inning.

And me? I listened with half an ear to the baseball chatter between the guys and kept myself busy taking pictures.

ballpic2

In the 8th inning, there was some talk about switching pitchers for the Giants because they wanted to make sure they would stay in the lead. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Even though they did change to a rested pitcher, the Dodgers scored two runs and won the game.

By this time, we were already on our way home listening to the game on AM 570 in our car because true to our tradition of going to the ballpark, we left at the bottom of the 8th inning.

As the final plays were occurring, we were heading towards our street, and soon turned into our driveway. Before dropping the boys off, we sat in the car and listened to the final plays until the win. Yay!

It’s a win! 2-1! At last the Dodgers won the game! Go Dodgers!

smilingball

 And now it’s time to get home and go to sleep…good night!


They’re Just Married: A Mom’s Muse

just-married-1448733362sch

A few days ago I received a text from my newly married couple. Two words: “We arrived.”

Those two words told me everything – they had arrived at their new apartment a week after the wedding and the ensuing celebrations. Although I would have liked just a bit of a longer text (2 words? Come on?), I understood that they were busy and needed to get on. School, work, life. They have things to do.

And there’s another piece here. After a couple gets married they need space from their parents in the first weeks of their marriage. Actually, the first year – known as “shanah rishonah” in Hebrew is a time for the new couple to bond.

The couple needs settling and so do we, the parents. Our family recently celebrated the wedding of our fourth son (mazel tov!) and it takes more than a few days (weeks?) for us as the parents to settle back into what was pre-couple normal. Things have been kind of hectic around here ever since these two individuals – our son and his lovely wife met each other over six months ago, dated, became an engaged couple, and then….the wedding a few weeks ago!

Fatigue, stress, anxiety and endless to-do lists. Those are only part of the equation of making a simcha. So yes, for the past three months we’ve been preparing a wedding which took a lot of emotional and physical preparation. Getting acquainted with a new family, dealing with many different people and accommodating many kinds of events brings out the best (hopefully not the worst!) in all of us. We were in constant contact with each other, communicating various plans via email, texts and phone calls.

The day after we returned from Cleveland where the wedding took place,  telltale signs of the simcha were visible.  Many who make these parties and events will relate; there were chairs that had to be returned, thank you cards to be written, fridge and freezer leftovers to be dealt with, and some empty suitcases still lying around.

But now, all that has been cleared away. The suitcases are back in storage, the chairs returned to their owners, most of the thank-you’s written, and my house has a semblance of order.

As we accept the always welcome Mazel Tov wishes from friends and acquaintances in the market, some of us are getting over the colds and viruses that we caught on the plane or from one another as we traveled. Stress of the excitement and pressure catches up to us and our immunities are lowered, bringing out those upper-respiratory infections in many of our family. Thank G-d for Z-Pac. It  works wonders (many thanks to Dr. U – my internist who found time for us in his schedule!).

And then – and then — we move on. The couple is settled into their new home and they are a separate couple. Besides for the occasional gift that comes to our house and gets placed in our upstairs guest room (for the next time they visit), we really have little day-to-day activities revolving around the wedding.

Yes, there are bills to be paid, work to be done (to pay those bills!) and more mazel tovs to be accepted. There are the pictures to choose from the photographer’s proofs, and copies to be made at Walgreens and Kinkos. It’s all a lot of fun and pleasant. These activities are what I’m supposed to be doing.

These activities of choosing and framing pictures, giving thank-you gifts to kind friends, and writing thank you notes to those whom I appreciate, are all appropriate social behaviors for mother of the groom to do post-wedding.

I enjoy these tasks. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the void in my heart that I can’t just pick up the phone and call my son and daughter-in-law anymore. They are a new couple with their own life and my job is to give them that space. This is something I remind myself for each one of our kids as they grow and fly the coup.

I go back to work, visit my clients who I’ve neglected for the past few weeks, and spend time with my husband. I call my mother a little more often, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law too, and I spend more quality time chatting with my grandsons. Things are a bit more relaxed.

Still, the void is there. And that’s okay. That space in my heart where I was preoccupied with this son and his bride can be filled with hope and love and warmth and pride.  That excitement of planning and thinking about them is now redirected to moving forward in my own life and things that I enjoy doing for myself. (pictures of kids counts as doing for myself!).

As I write a list of “things to tell the new couple” when they call before Shabbos, I remind myself that this exact situation is what my husband and I have prayed for. We don’t want to hover and want our children to be on their own.

We don’t want to be picking up the phone every time something pops into our heads of what to tell them. This is the time to refrain from overwhelming. To sift, filter, and perhaps pick up that phone – only to put it back down again.

The good news? Shana Rishona is one year only. Not more. Okay – two weeks down. Fifty more to go. I can handle this.

 

 

 


In-Law Boundaries Then and Now

IMG_0115

When I was expecting my first child, I once overheard my mother-in-law sharing with a friend of hers that I was pregnant – in the early months. I was so upset; I thought she had violated my privacy. Looking back, I know what I was thinking, but I also know what I wasn’t thinking.

I wasn’t thinking about the other side of the picture. I wasn’t realizing that all in-laws want is to be a part of their children’s life. So she slipped and shared with her two friends about my upcoming event. Big deal.

Boundaries  with in-laws were always a thing, except we didn’t call them that in the old days.

If you crossed boundaries or were over-involved with your kids and in-law kids, you were a meddler, a doter, and interfering parent. If you talked too much, you were a yenta.

When I got married we had a particular preference with our parents and in-laws (which was hardly ever followed because we didn’t enforce it) was that they call before popping in. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t, and that’s the way it was.

Back in the 1980’s there were no cell phones, so by making that rule I was basically saying to my mil or fil that if they were driving down our block and wanted to stop by they’d have to go home and call us. Which was kind of ridiculous, I think now.

In fact, I look back at those days and I’m a little embarrassed at how unreasonably I acted. I mean, I know what feelings I had that motivated me to be kind of tough and strict in some ways. But still, I think I overdid things a bit.

Lucky for them, my in-laws weren’t pushovers.  And they were smart – they’d be just in the neighborhood and just had to stop by and why bother calling from a pay phone or their home phone? They’d just stop by in the evening for just a minute.

And I would be upset (understandably) and make a big deal (by venting ridiculously  to my husband).

Nowadays, I probably wouldn’t visit my children  without calling first. That goes for my kids who live locally and those who live faraway.

How many times have I driven by my children’s house and wanted to stop by? All I had to do was call or better yet, text and bingo. I would be told “not a good time,” or “Yes, that’s great, come on over.”

Calling or texting to ask for permission to move forward into their turf is really easy now.

It’s easier for us to resist barging in at any hour at our kids’ home. So who am I to criticize my in-laws who had a different set of tools to work with in those days? It’s all about seeing the other side of the picture.

But today, we have other challenges to deal with, things that our own parents, grandparents never even thought would be an issue.  We have social media and the personal computer, and smart-phones each of which lends to lots of sharing and posting. The truth is that our children hate dislike prefer that we don’t share indiscriminately.

And I confess that I don’t follow that rule very well. In the same way that my in-laws would “just” stop by for “just” a few minutes to visit when they had the time or were “in the neighborhood,” in the same way I post a picture “just” on Facebook for “just” this once when I “just” have a great photo to post.

It’s hard for me, and it must have been hard for my in-laws. We parents want to share the good stuff about our grandchildren. And the pulling out of the pictures from our little purse just doesn’t cut it anymore these days for some reason. (that’s what my grandmother did with her friends back in the day!)

Look, with in-law relationships as with any relationship, the key is to do our best. To try to place ourselves in their shoes and understand how they feel. To remain true to our own feelings and needs. And to keep the communication lines open.

With a good dose of understanding, communication, and perspective about the other person’s situation, things can usually work out very well.

 

 


13 Resentment Ridders

stress2photo

A few weeks ago, lots of things were bugging me.

I mean, isn’t being resentful part and parcel of being human?

Let’s see: Whether it’s anger at the person who pushed ahead of you in line at the grocery, or frustration with your rebellious teenager’s attitude, or exasperation at the inexperienced and clueless teacher of your second grader,  (not sure why I’m bringing up situations from my life fifteen years ago — this is interesting), we all feel (or felt)the big R of Resentment in our lives. Don’t we? (Please don’t be quiet here, I need validation.)

It could be our mother-in-law (now I’m being honest!), or our daughter-in-law (never happens to me because mine are wonderful – truly), or brother, sister, best friend, sister-in-law, cousin, colleague, neighbor….anyone  annoying us.

Maybe all of the above at one time, or just one at a time. You know, one day the guy at the post office rubs me the wrong way (it happens)  and the next day my boss says something and I’m venting to to my husband for an hour.

Next, the grandchildren come over and they  leave stuff lying around on the den floor and I go berserk, because I hate clutter. You get it?

By the time we’re grown up (that’s middle aged when we finally feel grown up) we’ve figured out this relationship stuff already.  Or should I say, I’ve figured it out and am here to list you 13 things that I remind myself when I begin to feel that itch of resentment at anyone, everyone or no one.

So, if all else fails and you just cannot please some people no matter what you do, stop turning yourself into a pretzel and remember the following things.

These things don’t automatically stop me from feeling resentment, but they take the edge off the anger or whatever is bothering me.

  1. TRIGGER BUTTONS: Identify what trigger that person has pushed. Some people seem to push our buttons and it’s not they are trying to be mean or rude, but it’s more like we have certain sensitivity buttons that are being pushed. The title of the button is usually a character trait that we don’t like and we fear that we have it – such as  inadequacy, selfishness, foolishness.
  2. CHILDHOOD REMINDER: Ask the question to self: Self, what about my childhood does this remind me of? Is there something similar (kind of like deja vu) in my past that was upsetting and this reminds me of?
  3. CONSIDER IT A STYLE: People have idiosyncrasies or in other words, styles, cultures, ways of doing things. For us it’s weird, while for them it’s just their way of doing things. Knowing that can help ease the annoyance.
  4. KEEP DISTANCE BUT KEEP PERSPECTIVE. Sometimes if a person or situation is so toxic, you may have to keep distance from it so that you gain your equilibrium and feel better. Still, keep perspective that you may find a time to revisit that person or situation. But for now, distance is best.
  5. IS THAT A BEHAVIOR I HAVE ALSO? Sometimes it’s the annoying things in ourselves that we notice the most in others. Hard to admit but true.
  6. KNOW NOT TO DO IT TO OTHERS. It’s always good to know the stuff that we don’t want to do to others. Seeing something upsetting can remind us never to do such a thing because we then know what it feels like to be on the receiving end.
  7. BECOME AN OBSERVER. I’ve recently gotten better at people watching. When I just calmly observe and take myself out of the picture, “stuff” stops bothering me.
  8. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. This is an old cliché but it’s really true. Most of the time (like 99% of the time), things that others do is not about us. It’s about them. Knowing that can really help deal with it, because we are reminded that there’s nothing we can or should do.
  9. HAVE COMPASSION. It’s always a good thing to feel compassion for someone who is consistently annoying
  10. DO NOT GOSSIP. Enough said.
  11. KEEP BUSY, MOVE ON. No use obsessing and fretting over what can’t be changed. Move on.
  12. LET GO/PRAY. I’m constantly surprised how this always helps and it does
  13. Listen to some favorite music.

Have a peaceful day!   Oh – and don’t forget the Serenity Prayer.    17207-Serenity-PrayerAnd here’s a picture that will induce serenity!

peaceful

 


Lessons from Little Feet in Big Shoes

I like to watch my 20-month old grandson hanging around wearing one or both of his 8-year old brother’s sneakers. Or his Daddy’s black dress shoes. Or his 5-year-old brother’s crocs.

crocs

With his back straight, his stomach out and his  hand swinging by his side, he traipses around from room to room picking up little toy cars and other stuff he finds.  He’s on a mission. A shoe wearing mission. A big boy mission.

Every so often, his big brother will kneel down, make eye contact with the shoe-wearing toddler and ask politely, “Hey, can I have my shoes back? I need them.”

To which the big-shoe wannabe will smile, shake off the large shoes and go to retrieve another set of big shoes in the house. Or maybe he’ll settle for his own shoes which he doesn’t wear for long. He usually kicks off one or both of his own shoes and holds it in his hand — as if to keep it safe. Then, he walks around with his own.

But when he’s wearing the oversized shoes of someone else he has that determined look.

He’s practicing being big. He’s mesmerized by the big people’s shoes and he likes to feel what it’s like to walk in those big shoes. Why? Maybe because it’s fun and it’s new and it’s something outside of himself.

Actually, I’ll never know for sure but when I watch him,  I see a confident, happy child wearing something oversized, and loving every minute of it.

Nobody is bothered by it (except for the older brother who needs them back!) and the big-shoe-wearer is happy.

Yes, imagination. Playing. Practicing for when he’s really big like his brothers and his Daddy.

Don’t judge another person until you’re in his shoes.

It’s when the big-shoe-wearer imagines what it’s like to be wearing someone else’s and critiques how the other person wears their shoes.

I can’t imagine my little grandson judging anyone. He’s so sweet, accepting and smiley. (And oh yes, he’s only 20 months, right?)

But me, I learn from him. His walking around in big shoes teaches me about empathy. Feeling the experience of wobbling, stumbling, marching in its entirety without judgment.

What does it feel like to be that person wearing his or her shoes? Not – what does it feel like to be Me wearing his or her shoes? Because that’s not the point.

It’s important to remember that we each have our own experiences in the shoes we wear, big or little.

We need to imagine what it’s like to be  the other person – with his experiences, life situation, abilities and history – walking in his shoes. That’s empathy.

Researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. (google.com)

Just like my grandson does. He’s not thinking of the right way or the wrong way. He’s just putting himself in another person’s shoes and feeling the experience.

And that to me, is empathy.

 

 

 

 

 


Who’s the Boss Here Anyway? (and lessons I learn as a Grandma)

When my kids were little, my husband and I  faced many parenting stresses. Through it all, we felt that we were in control of our children’s lives and were the conductors on the train that our kids were traveling on.  Major and minor decisions – from what school to send them to, to where they would go to camp, to bringing them to play-dates, to dealing with negative issues that arose, to taking them on outings, travel, buying them new things, everything was our department.

As the children got older, we involved them in discussions according to their ages and developmental levels. We might have scoffed at times at the overwhelming reality of too much on our plates, but there was a constant sense of purpose, busy-ness, and important-ness in our daily lives.

And that position of control felt comfortable for us. It felt important. Smart. In charge. As if we were responsible parents.  And it’s a feeling that we got used to having.

Fast forward many years.

Our children grew up  and moved out and onto yeshiva and/or college out of town.  One by one, they married.

All that control and decision making power now fell from our laps right onto  our adult children’s shoulders. We were told – directly or indirectly; passively or aggressively – to back off. The only exception was when they wanted our advice and we happily gave that to them when asked (and at times when not asked).

We were no longer the bosses of our children’s destinies. We were dethroned.

chair-of-tutankhaman

Okay, it took some getting used to and I kicked, screamed and had a few tantrums (to my husband or anyone who would listen), but overall I accepted my new position.  I mean, I felt the hurt when things didn’t go my way, and was  annoyed when they did things differently than I thought was the “right” way.

When my oldest grandson was about five, I compiled a collection of magazine articles I had written since he and the others were born. The articles were  on empty stage syndrome and other middle-aged topics, so I added some fresh material and then wrote a book about being a grandmother. Within that year, I held book signings and other events and a friend of a friend asked me to lead a workshop at a well-known synagogue not far from my home. The audience was a group of synagogue members who were  vibrant and active seniors. After my presentation which included readings from my book and sharing some personal experiences as a new mother-in-law and grandmother,  someone raised her hand and asked the following question:

“What do we do when our grandchildren don’t thank us for the gifts that we give them? And why don’t their parents – our children – teach them the proper thing to do?”

I could hear others in the group mumbling comments in agreement with the questioner, and a few called out some other transgressions that their adult kids did with child rearing. Apparently, this was a hot topic, one that many in the group related.

It became immediately clear to me that this theme of non-grateful grandchildren was a topic I wasn’t at all prepared to discuss and advise about.

I wanted to relate to these women’s situations but I really couldn’t understand all the angst. At the time, I didn’t get the big deal if the child doesn’t say thank you. A thought occurred to me that many of these women were grandparents of older grandchildren than my pre-school aged grandsons. Some had grandchildren who were 8, 9 or 10 and others had teenage grandchildren.

I offered them empathy as best as I could. And then I gave some generic advice along the line of how we have to keep our mouths shut even if we think the adult kids are raising their kids with poor manners.

This led to some more sharing as the group offered some other examples of how poorly their adult kids were raising the little ones these days.

But I left the group feeling confused.  In my mind, this wasn’t the most successful event I had led. I felt I was not on the same page as these more mature grandmothers and I certainly didn’t feel that I had offered them concrete tips in the areas that were important to them.

Fast forward four more years. I now have (G-d Bless them) grandchildren who range in age from almost nine years old to almost six months. I’ve had countless experiences where I had to choose between expressing my opinion one time, several times or many times (one time wins!), arguing with their decisions or keeping my mouth shut (keeping mouth shut wins!)

But in the earlier days most of our interactions were with our adult children.

For example, where they sent the kids to school or what synagogue they chose to pray in, or where they lived, or how they spend their money or choices they make or friends they have —- all these issues have been between us and them.  I practiced the cardinal rule of zipping up my lips. The best thing to do (unless they ask for our input) is to keep quiet because it’s really up to them. Not us. Their business, not ours. A tough pill to swallow sometimes but the truth.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from one of my grandchildren and for a reason that I can no longer fathom, I found it to be lacking in appreciation.

What? Me, who four years ago couldn’t understand the need for kids to express appreciation, was having a problem with this? Yes. True.

And not only did I feel disappointed in the letter, I expressed it to him on the phone. Looking back now, I’m thinking, “What was I thinking? The kid wrote me a letter and I’m complaining?”

Well, needless to say he told his Dad who shared with me that the child was pretty insulted.

Gulp. I messed up.

After talking it over with the child the next day on the phone and patching things up,  I realized an entirely different – but related lesson.

Even our kids have don’t have control over other people – their growing kids! That’s right. While we think we can tell our kids what to do because we have control over them and they have control over their kids, it’s all just an illusion. The only ones we can change are ourselves. We knew that already, right? But

So for those senior grandmoms who complained that their adult kids didn’t teach their progeny how to show appreciation, my response would be (four years later in case any of them are reading this!):

We are not in control. Our kids  are not in control either. Everyone does his or her best to teach their kids how to act and be. At the end of the day, the kids eventually have minds and hearts of their own. Only we can influence our relationship with our grandchildren through our kindness and acceptance.

If you want to give gifts, give them. If you don’t want to give gifts, don’t give them. Nobody wants a gift with strings attached.

The key component in any relationship – including the grandmother/grandchild dynamic – is warmth, understanding and acceptance. No preaching and no expectations.

Letters, conversations, warmth. Those are worth more than formal thank you’s from young children and teenagers.

And that’s my lesson of dethronement – we’re no longer in control and we never were. Not even when we were young moms and dads raising our kids.

And as a grandmother, that realization is very freeing today.

 


A Humble Confession by an Ex-Non-MIL

You know those annoying non-moms who think they know everything about motherhood? For sure you do; everyone does. We’ve all come across them in our most insecure and shameful moments as parents. Just when we need the most encouragement — because one of our kids is having a tantrum, or talking back to us, or being unruly, or making a scene at a public place like a zoo or park — these know-it-all non-moms vow out loud to never be the kind of mom we are.

And then when these NM’s become moms, guess what happens?

Actually I don’t know what happens because I’ve never done a longitudinal study following  non-moms into their eventual mom-hood. But I’m willing to bet that if we tracked those woman and interviewed them years later, we’d find some pretty overwhelmed and possibly not-so-sure-of-herself types. Just my guess. Nothing scientific here…just some good-ol’ deductive thinking.

Well, I was a know-it-all and high-horse type of person but not about motherhood. I was that way about MIL (mother-in-law)-hood. When my kids were little and I’d see  MIL’s say or do things to their DIL’s, I’d wonder how they could ever be so insensitive. For example, when a MIL gave her adult children (gasp) advice, I’d think she was being intrusive and completely out of bounds.

When a MIL worried about her adult married kids’ financial situation, I thought to myself how it’s really none of her business.

And when a MIL called too often, I thought to myself that when I become a MIL to my sons’ wives, I will be really careful not to do any of those things.

And you know what? In the beginning of my MIL-hood, I was pretty careful. In fact, I became a pretty caring MIL. I probably did refrain from much of the behaviors that my own MIL and other normal people do when they become MIL’s.

And then something happened to me.

I grew up.

I grew into MIL-hood and relaxed my inhibitions. Maybe it was due to old(er) age or just plain lack of energy but my attitude became, what the heck? I’m the mother (and yes, mother-in-law) and I’m going to say what the heck I want to because I already wrote the book on being a mother-in-law and….

I relaxed my standards because I’m human. And I goof sometimes.  As my adult children grow into more mature adults….and to parents of not just babies or toddlers but of pre-school and elementary school children, I find that I’m becoming slightly more involved.

More outspoken. Entitled. Opinionated. Yup. All the horrible things I vowed I’d never say or do, I find myself saying and doing.

I mean – hello! We have opinions too. Right? Maybe that’s it – as we get older, we fear becoming invisible and so we assert ourselves and our opinions more.

When the grandkids were babies, it was easy to hold back from expressing the opinion of how to burp the baby, or whether the baby should be bottle-fed or nursed…or whatever the monumental decision was. I mean – who cared about that?

As the grandkids got older, (and we got older) we feel the need to compare and contrast how they do things with how we did things.

And sometimes we see things in different ways than we saw them when we were the parents. Maybe it’s that we kind of sort of “forget” what it was like being a new mom? Could it be that? Is it the old(ER) age factor? Like having those senior moments (I talk about them in my book) where we selectively forget how it was to be a young and busy mom and we just shoot our opinions from the hip.

In our old(ER) age, we say something, rather than put ourselves in their inexperienced shoes and just let them figure things out themselves.

Sometimes I have discussions with my husband about stuff and one of us says to the other “Nah, don’t make an issue. It’s none of our business.”

To which the other one promptly goes and makes an issue. Big time. Just because.

See? It’s hard. It’s tough. So never say never. You just never know when you’ll be in the exact situation as someone else and maybe – just maybe – you will react as they did or do.

So-  now I’m here to express that I  have sympathy for all those MIL’s – including my own — in how she raised me.

Yes – you read that right.

I know this is huge that I’m writing this after writing a book  all about my insights on being the perfect grandmother and mother-in-law.

I know this may even ruin my credibility as an author because, hey, how can I basically take back all I said about being conscientious and just change my mind with the click of a publish button on a bubby blog?

Well, bubbies and Omi’s, I’m doing it. I’m here to tell you that I now do all those annoying things I vowed never to do.

I ask too many questions.

I hate noise. I get upset when they play ball in the house.

I sometimes contradict the parents in front of their kids.

I tell them to bundle up the kids. I comment on their or their kids’ clothing (not always favorably).

I worry if I hear them arguing.

I post every last letter and drawing on my kitchen wall and Facebook page (even my own MIL didn’t do that last one! Yay her!).

All of it some of the time. And some of it all of the time.

Bottom line is I (and all my MIL friends) try our best. We really do and that’s what counts.

So – my message to all the future moms out there –

Never say never.

You just never know what kind of mother you will be. Don’t make promises about how you’ll be because even when you become that role, and follow your vows to the Tee, you will evolve over time into another role. Another stage. Another season.  And just what you thought worked for the previous stage, just doesn’t work anymore.

And then one day you may find yourself doing all the behaviors that you vowed never to do. And that will be pretty embarrassing.

Because all your ranting and raving about how you’ll never do or be this way or that way got turned on its head.

And aside from the embarrassment here’s the biggest problem: you may just have to confess on your blog or write a whole new book that contradicts your first book. Nope. Not worth it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 


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