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In-Law Boundaries Then and Now

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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.

 

 


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.

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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.

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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.

 

 


My Grandson’s Kindergarten Graduation Takeaway

When Robert Fulghum wrote that all he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten, he wasn’t kidding.  I had a similar experience in kindergarten just by watching my grandson and his peers sings songs at their graduation.

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The other day I attended the 5-year old graduation and listened to them say their valedictorian speeches – sing the songs and perform for the parents and grandparents with such clarity of speech, twinkles in their eyes and motions of their hands.  I realized for myself that these kids know everything they have to know already. Today.

They learned it already and they don’t have to learn it anymore. From here on in, it’s just review and repetition.

Robert Fulghum’s list of material learned in kindergarten included sharing, being fair, cleaning up your own mess, being nice and even flushing the toilet. Lots of things. You can check them out here. They all have to do with behaviors, rather than attitudes or values. Behaviors are important because the more we do them, the more practice we get at being good at them. And the more someone who we respect praises us for doing the behavior (kids love mitzvah notes!), the more we want to do it more.

I wonder: After kindergarten, is there is anything more to learn about how to act properly, with manners and politeness? Or is it just trial, error, repetition, review, feedback, practice and refinement of the basic lessons?

Beyond behaviors, there are attitudes and values. Attitudes and values are important because they are the pillars that hold up what we believe to be important in life, and they motivate us to do the things we do.

My grandson and his buddies sang so many songs (they were each very short!) that my heart was singing and dancing. I couldn’t stop kvelling (pretty typical for me but ok).

Songs about values such as honesty, visiting the sick, being nice to guests, knowing that even bad things are all for the best, loving others, and appreciating what others do for us.

These children have learned things in kindergarten and learned it well.  I saw it in their eyes. I felt it in their smiles. And I watched it in their hands that moved in unison.

On that day, in that classroom, at that graduation, those 22 kids dressed as little sailors sang songs about values and beliefs that they will hopefully be mindful of every day of their lives.

Here they are sitting together and watching a slide show of the various activities they did this year representing the values they learned.

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And now? Where do they go from here? We hope and pray they take these values and self esteem they have had this year and go forward from strength to strength.

And to that blessing this grandmother says “Amen!”

 

 

 


A Tale of Two Trips – Part I of II

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A few weeks ago I traveled to New York for a quick one day/one night trip. While there I visited my mom and my oldest son and daughter-in-law and kids, which was wonderful. But my main agenda on that short trip was to meet a new person who happened to be my son (#4)’s friend, whom he’d been dating  for a few months. They were getting serious and he wanted me to meet her.

I was a little jittery, and also excited and hopeful. My son had dated for marriage for awhile and we were thrilled that he had found his match. Everything seemed to click. I could tell from his voice stamp and his tone that he was completely happy and content.

All my feelings mixed together formed a big blob of nervousness.  Somehow that general nerve blob colored my travel experience and translated that experience into Bad Trip.

In fact, when I arrived in NY and my sister picked me up from the airport the next morning, she noted that all I could talk about to her in the car was how exhausted I was and how long the trip was.

The fact that I was there in NY for an exciting reason was lost on me. I was in a bad mood. I was nervous, anxious and worried. And unsettled.

So, what was so bad about this trip, you ask?

Well, one factor in the trip’s difficulty was its length. The sheer flying time cross country should be about 4 1/2 hours from west to east. But this trip was different.

In our attempt to get a ticket in a short amount of time, we rushed into getting an inconvenient ticket arrangements with not one, but two stopovers.

Since we had little mileage left for use at the time, the only normal direct ticket was about $800. In our effort  to find tickets for me to go meet this wonderful girl on a short notice, my son (who shall remain nameless – isn’t it great to have several sons so one never knows which one I’m talking about?) picked  the only itinerary that was available for a decent price. This itinerary was one with a stopover in Phoenix and another stopover in Charlotte, NC.

So at 5:45 pm on a Wednesday evening I took an Uber to Long Beach airport to wait in line and then fly to Phoenix.

Now a little geography here: Long Beach airport is about 35 miles from Los Angeles where I live. Yes, that’s right. Part of the allure of this wonderful cheap inexpensive ticket was that it flew out of the doo-hickey airport of Long Beach which is about the size of my backyard.

Wonderful airport and very quick service, but hello. It took the Uber (my second son, by the way, ) 90 minutes to get me there from LA in rush hour. And that was with using the carpool lane!

And by the time I got there, I had just about 15 minutes to get my boarding pass, go through security, wait on line and then board.

Finally, I was the plane – all was well, we took off, we landed  a little less than 2 hours later and then we deplaned.

The new gate to depart from Phoenix to Charlotte was about 20 minutes away by foot on those moving sidewalks or whatever they are called. And so I lugged my luggage across Phoenix airport, around and around until I found my gate.

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I checked my second boarding pass (yup, I had 3 altogether, isn’t that cool?) and the plane was to take off 3 hours from then.

Hmmm. I took out my food that I had taken along and ate some of it, being careful to ration, because it had to last my full journey across the  U.S.

At 11:15, we got called to get on the plane, and luckily I had a “priority” seating marked on my boarding pass (cost me $12 at the kiosk – best $12 I ever spent). This meant that after First Class folks, I was invited on to the plane to load my hand luggage in the still-empty overhead compartments. Such luxury.

My good mood about my priority seating was aborted by the sudden drop in temperature on the plane bound for Charlotte. This flight was about 4 1/2 hours and for some reason it was freezing cold. I had to wrap myself in my light jacket that I had taken with me and was still shivering. I could barely sleep.

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I asked the flight attendant for a blanket because I saw some of the First Class folks use blankets. No blankets anymore, I was told.

Anyway, after 4 1/2 hours on the plane to Charlotte, we landed, got off, and it was even colder in the airport. The airport was beautiful with white, wooden Adirondack chairs for lounging, and lots of outlets for charging phones and ipads. The accents were a bit hard to understand so that was a little annoying but the main issue was that I was freezing.

By then it was 6 a.m. North Carolina time (same as NY? are we almost there yet?) and I still had to walk across the airport to the departing gate (far!),  wait 2 hours in the airport (yes, I checked my crumpled boarding pass) to be called up to board “Prory  boarding” which is Charlotte accent for “priority boarding” I realized after asking, “excuse me? excuse me? did she call our group yet?”

Anyway, finally we were on the last leg of the journey across the good ol’ USA and I was headed from Charlotte at 8:15 am.

Destination: La Guardia Airport – so says my crumpled boarding pass.

When I landed in LGA, I turned on my phone and saw a few texts from my sister. I went outside and noticed how warm it was (everything is relative compared to that plane with no blankets), and I started to look for my sister.

I found her. She found me. I got in the car.

It was 10 am. It took us 45 minutes to get to Brooklyn, to my mom’s house. Just enough time to freshen up before having the meeting we had planned the trip for in the first place.

Total flying time: 8 hours.

Total waiting time in 4 airports (Long Beach, Phoenix, Charlotte, La Guardia) – 6 hours

Total driving time to and from airports on each coast (2 1/2 hours).

Listen – you do the math – I’m too tired! But basically, in that time…I could have flown to Israel, right?

Oh – and in case you are wondering, I loved meeting my son’s friend (who is now my future daughter-in-law!). I traveled back to California the next day on minimal sleep and only had one stopover.

I was cranky as ever, came down with a lousy cold and had to take erythromycin to get rid of my bronchitis.

Mazel Tov! Stay tuned for the next installment of…..A Tale of Two Trips – Part II. Over there, I will discuss another trip – one which I had an entirely different experience than the one in this post.

Hint: The next trip (also no-frills and quite long) was sooooo much more fun! Hmmm. I wonder why.

See you at my next post….sooner than later!

 

 


“Nachas,” Grandchildren and Facebook

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I’m a Nachas-ist. Yep. You read right. I’m addicted to “nachas.” Now, nachas – (pronounced nakh-es) according to the dictionary is Yiddish for joy or blessings,pride especially from one’s children and grandchildren.

The truth is that there is no English word or phrase that captures the exact nuance of what nachas is. Not one of the words – joy, pride, blessed feeling – conveys the true meaning of what we know to be “nachas.”

Nachas is so unique to the Jewish culture with the stereotypical grandmother/Bubby or Mom who kvells (there goes another non-translatable Yiddish word) about her progeny.

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So back to being a Nachassist, I believe that I spend most of my existence as a grandmother kvelling (loosely translated as inner boasting, bragging) about the little and not-so-little-anymore boys who were born from my children- otherwise known as grandsons.

Cute ones. Adorable ones. Smart. Talented. Athletic. Perceptive. Kind.

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Oh and handsome and charming too.

And did I mention that I am absolutely NOT prejudiced or biased at all? I mean anyone will attest to the above claims.

So how am I a nachassist? You see, I thrive on nachas. (See above descriptions. We’re showing, not telling here.)

Nachas is what keeps me going. And nachas is what also keeps me distracted from doing what I have to do as in when I tell my 5-year old (irresistible) grandson, “Will you just stop being so cute? I can’t stand it anymore and I can’t get anything done with you around. Go away, okay?”

And he smiles back at me, in that knowing way. He gets it. He knows that I don’t have patience for too much cuteness. Then I tell my daughter-in-law (his mother) that they should make it illegal to be so cute.

The last few weeks, I agonized  at how little I wrote, blogged, read or did anything of significance with my brain because all I could do is kvell.

And you know, kvelling and accomplishing just don’t go together.

Now, in case you think that Nachassists are similar to Narcissists in that they have a personality disorder, think again.

Nachassists are not bad or selfish or damaged. They are simply human and they are just doing what comes naturally when good things come our way in life.

You see, even if you don’t have grandchildren, you can display a healthy dose of nachassism with regard to anything good in your life.

For example, if you have a child who is accepted to an Ivy League university, you have joy and pride in what the child has accomplished. That’s “nachas.” (if you’re not Jewish you call it something else, but you get my drift).

And if you worked really hard to play a Beethoven Sonata on the piano and then you perform it perfectly (or almost perfectly) in front of a large audience, you have nachas from yourself.

Nachas is that good old-fashioned, cuddly feeling you get when  you or someone you love gets or earns something really good and worthy of pride.

Now, sometimes “nachassism” can veer into dangerous territory and perhaps earn a not so nice reputation like its cousin “narcissism.”

How? When a Nachassist gets an urge to post a picture of his or her progeny on Facebook, it can cause some issues. For example, if the nachassist forgets to ask permission from the parents of the cute, adorable and irresistible kids. That can pose a problem of privacy being invaded into the young family’s territory, a feeling of being intruded upon.

And that’s when nachassism gets a little sticky.

The simple way for a nachassist to prevent any problems is to ask permission. Then, the parents of said children can either say yes or no. (hopefully they say yes, right?)

If yes is the response, the nachassist is free to post that photo for all his/her facebook friends to ooh and ahh over said child.

Never mind that each of those facebook friends who are admiring, liking, reacting and otherwise stroking the Nachassist’s ego on Facebook is secretly thinking, “My grandchild is much cuter. Hmph.” It doesn’t matter if each one is eagerly waiting to post his or her own nachas about his or her own life, it doesn’t matter.

Because that just proves how powerful the Nachassist phenomenon is. Later on, the likers, reactors, and strokers can post their one Nachas on Facebook for all to see.

You see, it’s all just a Nachas game, played by nachassists who want to brag and boast, share about their good events in life and/or grandchildren.

And that’s not so terrible, is it?

So the next time something good comes your way, go ahead and share it. Post it. Be proud of it. We are all here to read and share in your happiness.

And just so you know, we begrudge you the good fortune. In Yiddish – that’s called “Farginning.”

Oh, yeah, it’s hard to translate exactly into English. But you get my drift, don’t you?

May all grandmothers, grandfathers, parents and children have nachas from each other and themselves! Amen!

 


Look Grandma, No Hands!

scooter

A few weeks ago my 5 1/4 year old grandson looked at me with his big, brown eyes and asked me in his soft, sweet voice,

“Omi, remember a long time ago you told me you would buy me a 2-wheeler when I turned 5?”

No, I didn’t remember but I could hear myself saying that when he turned three and learned to ride his brother’s bike. So, I told my grandson that if he’s a really good boy and his Mommy says it’s okay, we will go get him a new bike.

I was actually impressed that he waited 3 months past his birthday to tell me that the purchase was past due.

“Whew,” he said, apparently relieved that his request was being considered.

It’s so much fun buying the kids things, but even more fun when they enjoy and relish the new toys. In this case, my grandson came over to me and gave me a big hug as soon as I told him I was giving his mom the money.

A few days later, the little guy went with his mom and brothers to choose a bike at Toys-R-Us and pretty soon, the big guy was riding around the backyard showing off his skills.

A new shiny bike is so much more than a plaything or gift. When a child rides a bike without training wheels, she feels in charge. I still recall the first Schwinn that I had with the banana seat. I remember the feeling of empowerment as I sped down my block with my neighbors.

When a child rides a bike, he is developing his emotional skills empowerment and confidence.

They learn to trust. I still recall my older sister teaching me to ride my bike by holding on to the seat gently while I practiced steering with the handlebars. I trusted that she would only leave go for as long as I was safe.

When a child rides a bike, she learns responsibility by taking care of it, locking it up and keeping it covered so it doesn’t get ruined from the rain or snow.

In most city neighborhoods, if you don’t lock the bike when parking it in front of a store or house, it will be stolen. I recall a particular time that my eldest son left his bike in front of the library for “just 5 minutes” and returned to find his bike gone. Taken.

One day this past week,  the boys were riding their bikes in the backyard. A few times, my grandson called out to me  “Look, I can ride with only 1 hand…” as he demonstrated lifting his arm for a few seconds before grasping the handlebar again.

But more than his skill of balancing on the bike with one, two (or zero! Help!) hands, was his precious smile and look of contentment, focus and satisfaction.

To me, that was priceless.

 

 

 

 

 


Lessons Learned from Lost Items

sunglasses

These days I spend a lot of my time looking for things. I get into the car to go somewhere and pretty soon I’m running back to the house to look for my sunglasses. The other day I realized just as I was about to pull out of the driveway that my cell phone was not in my purse and we all know what that means.

Calling the phone and then if I hear it – or worse, I don’t hear it because it’s turned off – I am frantically looking around for it.

A few days ago, right before the bris of my newest grandson I realized I was missing my watch. Even though I remembered taking it off and putting it on my night table before going to sleep the night before, I couldn’t find it there or anywhere.

Okay, my arm felt naked and it bothered me not to have my lovely watch, but I tried to let it go and moved on. This was the bris of my grandson, for Heaven’s sake. Why worry about a stupid missing watch?

There are more important things to worry about than lost key. Because that’s  a thing too. So is misplacing my work badge that I wear around my neck on a lanyard. The other day I found the lanyard but the little badge was gone. Oh no! I was all farklempt.

But honestly, why would I or anyone spend time fretting over something that is missing when I know I will probably find it in the last place I look? Right?

Seriously, this topic has been bothering me a lot lately. As I go through my middle aged years I find myself missing things a lot. Sometimes it’s my ATM card just when I’m standing at a store checkout and ready to pay. How embarrassing. It happened a few weeks ago and I had to walk out without my purchases. I didn’t have checks on me either.

Am I scatter brained, spaced out, experiencing G-d forbid too many senior moments? What is the deal with all this missing stuff? The truth is it’s not a new thing for me. I lose things these days just as much as I’ve misplaced things when I was a younger mom and grandma.

So is the losing habit a chance for me to appreciate what I have and let go the obsession with material objects? Is that the message for all of this? Should I accept it and just learn from it? If  so, what do I learn from all this?

My thoughts on this matter came to a head when I misplaced all my photos on my phone the other day. I had taken a whole bunch of pictures and for some reason hadn’t checked that any of them were uploaded. When I looked later I noticed that the last pictures visible were from a few days ago. I panicked. These were pictures of my new grandson’s bris. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing all these pictures.

Mixed into these feelings of frustration was the feeling of embarrassment at not being able to move on with my day when I misplace things. I got all tense and couldn’t relax. I kept asking my husband for reassurances that I will definitely find the items.

And then when I found the pictures (my son the techie was able to locate them by switching my settings on the phone) I was in ecstasy (a little exaggeration but you get the idea).

But I’m back to the old idea of learning a lesson from all this. Because you know, I know, my husband knows, my children know, and everyone reading this knows that I will definitely lose things again very soon. It’s going to happen.

So?

Mindfulness. That’s the term I’ve been reading a lot about lately. It’s about being present and in the moment. It’s a lot of things that are beyond the scope of this post but for the purposes of this post here’s my lesson

When I put something away, I ought to think about where I’m putting it. I ought to also try to put things in the same place every time.

Because when I don’t, that’s when I get into trouble.

Like the time I threw my car keys on the chair in the living room as I came home ran to the restroom and then forgot where they were. Later when I was leaving the house, I couldn’t find them. After using the spare key (thankfully we have that), and being mad at myself for not putting the keys on the hook where they belong, I ended up tracing my steps in my mind and recalled putting them in the couch.

They were buried under the couch cushions. All’s well that ends well. Life can go on. I found my keys.

That’s it. Mindfulness. Be more conscious of what I’m doing when I’m doing things. Do one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task. Take deep breaths. Slow down. Pay attention to what I’m doing and where I’m putting things.

It’s not enough to set up a system in our home and office of where things go; we have to take the time and focus to actually use those systems.

So when my husband asks me “where is the community directory book that’s usually in the kitchen,” I can run and get it from the car because I remember using it in the car when making phone calls in my driveway.

Life happens. We can’t always be in the same place when using certain items but if we are conscious when doing things and don’t just act on autopilot, we will be less likely to lose things.

And more likely to enjoy our day to day adventures.

Now, where is that list that I had with all the ideas I wanted to write?

Breathe in and breathe out. All is well.


The Art of Giving Space to New Parents

geekynewborns

The news of our son’s new baby, a firstborn son for him,  came late Wednesday night.  My husband called  from an errand  and told me the exciting news that he had just heard from the new father.

“Mazel Tov! It’s a boy!” shouted my husband, in his characteristic sharing-good-news voice.

“What? Oh wow! Mazel Tov!” I answered in my semi-sleep state.

I called my son and daughter-in-law, wished them mazel tov and got all the details – like baby’s weight, the labor and the fun birth-story tidbits that all of us new and older moms enjoy sharing.

Soon, my daughter-in-law sent me a few photos of the baby. I couldn’t believe this. Already they were snapping and sharing pictures? How cool is that?

Times are a-changing. Couples nowadays are very savvy at  getting right into things. Immediately.

Next came an adorable video of my dil talking to her 15 minute old son and his responses via tongue wagging, eyes blinking and body stretching. Another insight into first-time Mommy-hood –  lots and lots of early stimulation.

My husband and I have already gone through the experience of  birth arrival  phone calls from parents. We’ve had the gamut of  feelings: euphoria, pride, gratitude and the overwhelming desire to just go. Do. Help. Support. Advise. Counsel.

But each time we become grandparents to another little boy (only boychiks so far in this family!) we learn about ourselves vis a vis today’s generation. We learn that times are changing. We realize that kids know what to do and are pretty definite about how they are going to parent.

And we learn that it’s best to keep our mouths shut regarding unsolicited advice. In some ways it’s not new, because we wanted the same space when we were new parents. But now we’re on the other side and it’s our job to be supportive and understanding, rather than didactic.

By now I get that  first time moms –and even second and third time moms –have pondered, researched and analyzed the pros and cons of all decisions for 9 months. And whether or not we agree or understand or recall doing things that way,  they want to do things their own way. In their own time.

So back to our new baby grandson’s arrival:

I called, texted and emailed my friends and family about the good news. Then,  I thought of posting some of the pictures onto Facebook.

But I stopped myself. Through a  WhatsApp, I asked,  “Is it okay to post a pic of the baby?”

Her swift response was , “Sure. No problem. Thanks for asking.”

The next day, I had a lot of things to do work-wise, and my head was swirling with tasks to get done in time for Shabbos.

I could have acted on autopilot. After all, I’ve done this many times before. The boy thing. The celebrations.  The gifting. The bris or brit milah (circumcision). The tumult surrounding all the phone calls. The decisions.

Still with all that I reminded myself that  this is not only my simcha. This is not my time to make firm decisions without consulting the new parents.  I had my time when I birthed and raised my own children. Now it was their time.

Within a few hours, the phone calls came in and the decisions were worked out.

They asked us if it’s okay if we  would host the sholom zochor for the baby.  the party after dinner on Friday night.

Great. We would be happy to do it.

I delegated the job of picking up the food and setting up the tables and chairs to them to my other son and daughter-in-law who were more than happy to help out.

And I then I got busy. My first stop would be the hospital. Yes, I would take off from work and go running to the hospital. I would even bring my dil a delicious meal from one of the local take outs that she likes.

But wait: Does she want visitors? Probably. Thinking back to when I was a new mom, I remembered that visitors were fun. But did I want unexpected visitors to come? Did I want surprises in the form of my mother-in-law?

No, I did not and neither does any new mom (hormones notwithstanding). So I did the right MIL-appropriate thing and I called my son and made sure they were up to visitors.

And when I went to buy the gift I asked the store owner for a gift receipt.  I didn’t want to impose my taste on her. While we relish those warm and fuzzy velour stretchies with cute blue and grey or turquoise and green stripes, these may not be the “in thing” for the young couples.

Last night my husband and I visited the new parents and their adorable baby. We oohed and ahhed and took lots of pictures of each of us holding the baby. We sat and chatted for awhile. And then we left.

This morning I got a phone call from my daughter-in-law. “Mommy, I just love those stretchies! That’s so nice of you….

I was happy to know that she enjoyed the new outfits. But more than that, I was glad that I had given her the space to decide for herself whether to “like” the gift. After all, none of us (not even the most veteran grandmas or bubbies) likes to be told what to like and how to be.

How do you navigate relationships with new moms and dads?

 

 


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