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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.

 

 


A Tale of Two Trips – PART II (The Glass Half Full)

gefuelltes-trinkglas

When did they install all those airport outlets? And since when were the lines to the bathroom so short? Also, the normally long check-in lines were suddenly so short.  And that Starbucks coffee! It smelled so good!

Those kids in front of us on line? How cute! I love those wheelie suitcases they each had. I blurted out to their parents how cute their kids were.

The seats on the plane were made of leather and were extremely comfortable. The leg space was amazing and to think that this airline doesn’t even boast about their legroom! And no one even bothered us about where we put our carry-on luggage. Overhead compartment or under the seat in front of us? No big deal.

There was a child in front of us who was chattering on the flight. Normally, I would be just a tad bothered by it because I needed my sleep. Not this time. I found myself listening to her every word, and chuckling with my husband (who was trying to sleep, come to think of it) about how cute she was.

The pilot thanked us for flying this airline. Do they always do that? I never noticed before. Our luggage came right away, I think.

In spite of the traffic on the way from the airport, I enjoyed the scenery from our rental car. When we reached our destination  we were served a delicious breakfast by our hosts.  I was ready to get back in the car and visit friends.

My husband? He asked if he could sleep for just an hour. I said okay, fine.

Me, I was so excited that while removing something from the car, I twisted my shoulder and felt a pain.

“Everything that hurts will feel completely fine today,” our hostess commented when she saw me holding my shoulder.

How right she was. We were there to celebrate the engagement of our son to our new daughter-in-law. This auspicious occasion stirred such happiness, gratitude and warmth in my heart that everything around me just blossomed.

This glass-half-full attitude was weirdly in contrast to my airport story about 3 weeks prior.   In fact, I even wrote about it a few days ago on this post.

Well, now that I’m home for about a week, I’m thinking about this. While I still am on a relative high about our son’s engagement and the happy occasion, I do realize that everything is about perspective. I think I’ve come down to earth (by some definition of that).

Every day of our lives, events, comments, issues, problems, and personalities fly by our faces. We  have no control over all that is whirring about us.

When we are in a good space inside ourselves we perceive things around us as relatively positive. Even if we are faced with a problem, we can reframe that in a more positive way because we are in a happy frame of mind.

By contrast, when we are feeling non-centered or “off” for whatever reason, we may color all our other side experiences with dark-colored glasses. Our negative sense of self colors everything around us.

On the plane trip home, we stopped off in San Francisco. Somehow the stopover didn’t bother me. I charged my phone, relaxed into the comfortable (vinyl? leather?) airport chairs and ate our snacks.

Back on the next plane, another cute kid called the older man in front of her “Pop” and started an entire conversation with him. She even complimented me on my new shoes! She talked about food that was passed around on the plane as having “too much salt” and “too many tri-glycerides.”

Every day of our lives, our mind takes us on trips. Do we go the positive route or do we go the negative route? We have a choice, as I did. Sometimes, what’s going on in our lives – for better or worse – colors our perceptions of the reality. But if we are aware of that, we can temper our reactions to the here and now.

And maybe, just maybe we can refrain from complaining (too much) when things seem hard. And when things are really  good, we can (talking to myself here) try not to gush too much (if that’s possible!)

Because that’s what I did to that cute girl’s mother, “Oh my gosh, your daughter is just the cutest!”

I think she liked the compliment, but still….

 

 


Best Momisms by Vikki Claflin (and a book bundle giveaway!)

My funny midlife boulevard friend, Vikki Claflin, author of  award winning blog, Laugh Lines, has guest posted here today, and is holding a book bundle party. Check out her link during the next week and enter to receive a book bundle giveaway.
Vikki Claflin, author of Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch, and I are co-
sponsoring a fabulous new book giveaway called “The Big Booty Book Bundle Giveaway!” It’s
FIVE books by talented female writers that will keep you laughing out loud. And it’s free! For
details and to enter, click http://thebigbootybookbundle.com
vikki
During the week of 2/22-2/26, my own book, Mazel Tov It’s a Bubby  will be featured together with a few other books chosen by Vikki, in the Big Booty Book Bundle Giveaway.
Upon reading Vikki’s guest post below, I noticed that Vikki’s mom’s lessons were pretty similar to the lessons my own mom gave my sisters and me. The only difference is that I don’t always follow these rules. Oh well. And Vikki does! Check out her picture…she’s svelte!
 (Maybe that’s why God gave me sons, ya think?) In any case, hope the following gives you a few laughs, if not wrinkles. (And Mommy Stern – that’s my mom – if you’re reading this, I hope you get a good laugh…Vikki’s in the same league as Erma Bombeck)
MOMISMS
By Vikki Claflin
  • Mom grew up in the 50s. She was slender, with a perfect, blonde beehive hairdo,
    and smelled like Youth Dew from Estee Lauder (before the unfortunate change in formulation).
    She wore slim skirts and stilettos, and always “freshened up” by fixing her hair and her makeup
    before Dad came home. This was not a home that fostered tomboys. My sister and I grew up, not
    surprisingly, to be girly-girls, with a love of fashion, makeup, and all things beautiful.
    Sissy and I learned very early that beauty was work. One had to pay attention, so nothing slipped
    through the cracks and pronounced us as “lazy” or “tacky.”
    Beauty came with rules, and Mom knew exactly how to deliver them with the conviction of
    Moses reading the Stone Tablets. With 6 kids at home (3 hers and 3 his), she had no time for
    chatty mother-daughter discussions and lessons on how not to disgrace ourselves and ruin the
    family name for future generations. Mom had a quick, dry wit, and a scathing sense of humor,
    and she delivered most of her advice on the fly. One-liners or pithy instructions would
    spring forth spontaneously at home, in the car, or in the produce department of the local
    supermarket. At a young age, I learned to carry a pencil and a notepad in anticipation of her
    sidelong glance that told me something I needed to know was forthcoming.
    By the time we were in our teens, Sissy and I had memorized The Rules, through repeated daily
    reminders from our personal Beauty Sherpa. Some have been easier to follow than others, and a
    few are now more relevant to an earlier time, but at 70+ and still fabulous, Mom has a certain
    credibility that can’t be denied.
    Mentally reviewing The Rules the other day, lest I find myself dropping the ball, I wrote down
    my favorites:
    1. You have to suffer to be beautiful. I learned this one at 14, while getting braces put on my
    teeth. 40+ years later, it’s about stilettos, Spanx, skinny jeans, and Botox injections. Some truths
    never change.
    2. At a certain age, a woman has to choose between her face and her hips. A little fat softens
    facial lines, but you’ll have hips like battleships. Too thin and…
    be smaller, but your face will be lined like a Texas saddle. (Repeat after me, “Life is not fair.”)
    3. The difference between a beautiful woman and a not-so-pretty one is either God or a ton of
    money.
    4. Beauty comes from within, but the outside needs a little makeup.
    5. If you think you’re fat, you probably are.
    6. If you’re wider from the side view than from the front view, you’re definitely fat.
    7. Walk lightly, and don’t tromp. You’re a girl, not a Clydesdale.
    8. A woman is instantly judged by her shoes and her handbag. Economize somewhere else.
    9. If you paint your nails, no chips. If you color your hair, no roots. It looks tacky.
    10. If you keep frowning, your face will freeze like that. (Fortunately, Botox freezes it back.)
    11. Keep your nails short.
    12. Stand up straight. It projects confidence.
    13. Never chew gum. People who chew gum look like cows chewing cud. 
    14. Whenever you’re trying to change something about yourself, be realistic. Only God can
    make a tree.
    15. A woman has the face God gave her at 20 and the face she’s earned at 50. Wear
    sunscreen. And don’t squint.
    16. Be sparing with cosmetic intervention. Your face should never look younger than the rest
    of you.
    17. When your makeup is done and you’re ready to go out, take half of it off. Less is more.
    18. Look good when your husband gets home, and look happy to see him.
    19. Get your hair off of your face. You look like a sheepdog.
    20. SMILE. It’s the most beautiful thing you can wear.
    Thanks, Mom, for these pearls of female wisdom over the years. Some make me think. Others
    still make me snort-laugh out loud (which I know is terribly unladylike). But most of these have
    stood the test of time and I’ll be passing them along to my granddaughter when she’s ready.
    Until then, I don’t chew gum, but I still can’t master those  stilettos.
    book bundle ed_ 3
     
    Vikki Claflin
    Author, Blogger

    541-490-5200 | vikki@laugh-lines.net | http://laugh-lines.net | Hood River, OR
    Vikki Claflin writes the award-winning blog, Laugh Lines, where she doles out irreverent advice
    on marriage, offers humorous how-to lists galore, and shares her most embarrassing midlife
    moments. She shows us how to master midlife with a little common sense and a lot of laughter.
    Check out more of Vikki’s hilarious writing in her newest book,Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch

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.


When the World Around Us Is Crumbling, Embracing Inner Change

Just this morning, the LAUSD (Los Angeles public school system) and other school systems received “credible threats” leading some to shut down the doors  to the schools. We hear this news and we are scared, insecure and feeling powerless.

But sometimes it seems that changes in the outer world have the odd benefit of causing self-reflection.

chinese-proverb-on-windmill

Recently I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed  over the years. Most importantly, my identity about who I am versus who I was is more defined for me these days than it ever was.

At the core, I’m still the same person. Yet, my hobbies, how I occupy my time, my life goals, and my overall perception of myself have gone through small and large gradations.

On the exterior, I’m a hybrid of middle aged dieter and sometimes-exerciser, part time music therapist, English teacher, home owner (new kitchen remodeler!), broken ankle survivor, grandmother, writer, blogger, friend, daughter, mother-in-law. (not in that order, please).

My relationships keep expanding: Friends, acquaintances, more grandchildren, new daughters-in-law, colleagues, social media friends and so forth.

But on the inside I’m a mixture of the former and insecure together with the new and evolved and more confident. My struggle throughout life seems to be to peel away the layers of insecurity one by one, and hopefully emerge as a whole person.

When I was newly married, I’d fill out forms and where they’d ask about occupation, I’d write “housewife.” There was no hesitance as I checked off that box.

housewife-with-cook-book

There was no place for “stay at home mom” (and the term wasn’t yet in vogue) so “housewife” was the closest thing to my truth. I spent my days at the park or library,  shopping for groceries, carpools and cooking uncomplicated meals.

You know, Mommy-ing.

I also taught piano lessons up to ten hours per week, and taught Music Appreciation at local elementary schools.

I was a Mom who stayed home and who also went out to teach part time. When posed with the question about what I “did,” my answer was “Mom, mother.” Not very glamorous on today’s standards, but that was my answer.

Whatever work I did, it wasn’t “real” work, to me. The other non-Mom stuff were more hobbies to me than form of profession.

Looking back, I don’t think I was completely truthful. Maybe I felt guilty admitting that I wasn’t really a full time mom, so I fudged the whole truth on those forms. (You know, like the weight on driver’s license? Okay, that’s different, but you know what I mean).

So, it wasn’t until I started to work as a music therapist, specifically when I did my full time grueling music therapy internship, that I thought of myself as something other than a Mommy. After years of music therapy school, studying, auditioning and practicing more hours of piano than I can believe, I changed my self-perception.

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After getting my first (music therapy) job, I declared myself a professional.

Finally, I embraced the real me – the one who did enjoy Mommying and nurturing, but had a drive to help in the outside world. The one who could feel whole and complete doing the things that I always wanted to do with my music, with people and for the world.

Being a professional to me was more than just a term that defines the protocol for gaining respect in the corporate world. Professional didn’t only mean practicing ethics and values deemed appropriate for my job.

Professional standing – and my admitting that I am a person with a profession or career – helped me carve my identity in my other roles.

I suddenly became in touch with my raison d’etre and my dreams.

I had always dreamed (a far-off seemingly unattainable dream) of becoming a music therapist, ever since my first piano teacher – whom I adored – had worked during the day as a music therapist for children with autism. She would discuss what it was like to be a music therapist (in between teaching me songs I would ask questions!) and I was fascinated.

So, in my early 30’s, when most of my then four kids were in school, I went back for another degree, earned my music therapy credential and a few years later, my Masters in Special Education and started to work. As I built up my music therapy practice,  I realized more and more how fulfilling my new career can be.

Fast forward to about 8 years ago when I became a grandmother, I suddenly was overcome by a newly emerging identify. I was a grandmother. Hey, I wasn’t young anymore. I wasn’t a Mom of little kids.

I gave birth to a new identity – that of grandmother.

I began to write. My first article – which I called “Naming the Grandparents”  was published in a local magazine for Jewish women. The editor gave me a column every other month and I jumped at the opportunity.

I realized that I had been touching upon a relevant topic to women of my age. Every month or so, I would sit down to write my thoughts about this new stage of being a grandmother, mother-in-law and mom of adult kids.

As my younger sons were growing into young men, I was starting to see large themes and topics burst into articles of interest and humor. I took stories of my life and wrote about them.

Then came the birth of my book, titled “Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!” – a collection of my stories about the joys and oys of being a grandmother and mother of adult kids.

Then came blogging and publishing on social media.

As we watch our children all “growed” up and our grandchildren doing so well thank G-d, my husband and I feel we’ve done a pretty okay job at the Parenting Profession. (Yep, he gets a lot of credit for that part..)

Now, I am knee deep into many other professions – that of adult parenting, grandmother of toddler, pre-school and early elementary school grandsons and other roles.

I’ve broken my ankle and gone through surgeries, gained lots of weight (7 months of non-weight bearing will do that) and gone through other challenges.

Looking back at the changes I’ve made, I can be proud. I can now look forward to more changes to come within myself.

And if those terrorists continue to make threats at Western Civilization, maybe others can work at changing the world. I’m just going to try to change myself with one song, post, article, school lesson, or kind word or hug at a time.

 

 


Helicopter Musings

I’ve been blogging on this grandmother/bubby blog for a little over three years, and have noticed that the “most searched for” phrases when reaching my blog seems to be “helicopter moms,” or “helicopter grandparents,” which leads me to believe one of two things: a) I write a lot about that topic, and/or b) grandparents are interested in that topic.

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In any case, if I have thought I was a helicopter grandparent when I became a grandmother 8 years ago (wow, hard to believe it’s been that long), I realize I’m still grappling with my tendency toward helicopter parenting. Never mind grand-parenting.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I sent off our youngest son to Israel for yeshiva. This is our little child – our baby – you know the one I gave birth to years ago who is so cute that I still want to pinch his cheeks? Yep. That one. Actually, based on my history as a devoted, sometimes nagging, somewhat over-protective  mom, I thought it would be really hard. I, the one who has  helicopter parenting/grand-parenting down to a science, was already visualizing my calling him daily on his cell phone and panicking when he wouldn’t answer the phone.

And indeed,  few weeks before he left to yeshiva for the year, I could be spotted  nagging helping him shop and pack.

But besides that, I was fine. I’ve done this before. This was not my first child to leave home, and even this child had already been away from home for school already. So I did not have a hard time letting go.

Well, maybe the day he left was a little tough. Since he was taking a trip abroad, we (hubby and I) allowed ourselves to be just a tad hovering.

So the day he departed, my husband and I were that couple at the Swiss Air counter (if you were there and happened to notice) who moved extra pieces of clothes from one suitcase to the other in order to spread out the weight. Did you see us? If not, you may have noticed our very tolerant son who didn’t even seem to be embarrassed by us. He stood by our side and kept saying, “It’s okay, I don’t have to take so much….let’s just leave it behind…”

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You’re thinking, who’s the traveler here? Isn’t it the young man and not us? You’re right.

But we’re not really so bad. Listen, we just had to make sure he had everything he needed, okay? Where he’s going there are no stores.

So my husband ran back to the car while the airline attendant took someone else in line, and he got a small suitcase which he found in the trunk. That became our son’s third piece of luggage, so that each piece shouldn’t exceed the weight requirements.

My son stood there totally relaxed probably thinking how he’ll be soon free from these hovering parents.

So that was basically it. After that we stopped nagging or hovering or reminding.

Unless of course you count the hard part which was watching him walk up the staircase leading to the gate. He met up with a friend who was flying on the same flight and the two of them started to chat. My phone battery died its hundredth death just at that time before I would commit my final touch of helicoptering this poor guy (and his friend) by asking them to pose for a picture. Again.

But seriously, it’s been two months since his departure, and I’m much better now than I thought I would be. I’m leaving him alone for the most part.

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When he calls us (I won’t tell you how frequently we ask him to call – listen you don’t have to know everything about me!), I don’t keep him on the phone too long. It’s 11:30 his time when he calls and I just ask him about five or six, okay, seven or eight (I think) questions and then I tell him I love him and he says he loves me and then we hang up.

Not so bad, right?

And then my husband comes home from work and we discuss each of our talks with the son. We exchange stories of what he told my husband what he told me and so forth.

It works out. It really does. I sent a package to him with someone who traveled there and lives nearby.

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And Chanukah is soon, so I’m preparing a package to have sent to him there, which is not really helicopter parenting but Jewish parenting.

As my friend, Lisa who is also a grandmother and blogger says, “nobody said this parenting biz was easy….” It’s the letting go that’s the hardest of all.

And on that note, happy holiday season to all, and may we all keep in touch with our children in loving ways (without too much meddling).

 

 


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (Just Knead it!)

Last week our city of Los Angeles – along with many other locations – held the epic   “Great Big Challah Bake.” Many women from all over our city gathered together in a huge room to mix the ingredients of “challah” together (flour, water, salt, sugar, oil, yeast). Together as a group, we each kneaded our dough, and then separate a piece off while making the special blessing. This is considered a “mitzvah” or good deed that Jewish women do each week in preparation for the Shabbos. The purpose of the event was to kick off a weekend called The Shabbos Project. This was the first part of a weekend of togetherness where Jewish families from all walks of life celebrated Shabbat together from Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown.

Although  I don’t make challah every week for Shabbos, I make it often enough.  But something about the experience at that “Great Big Challah Bake” inspired me.

The experience – the kneading – was invigorating. The working with the dough really felt good, somehow better than it ever felt before.

At the Challah Baking gathering with hundreds of other women, I started off with some ingredients that was prepared on a tray. (Shout out to the high school girls in our community who helped with all the preparation!).

I kneaded the mush. Some of the flour was not mixing in properly and it was a bit too gooey. Then, as I mixed more it became more cohesive and smooth, but it was a bit dry. So I added a tiny bit more oil to get it to be just the right moisture. And then I kneaded and mixed, and tossed and turned it.

Then I let it sit and rise. I was chatting with the people at my table and  listening to the inspiring speakers.  When I took a look again, it had risen quite a bit!

I took the dough home, braided it, let it rise again, and baked it. When we  ate it all the next night, it was better than challah I’d made in a long time.

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And I recalled my mother telling me back in the day, “You really have to work with the dough. The more you work with it, the better it comes out.” And she’s right. (Didn’t they always tell us, “mother is always right?”)

But seriously, to me this is a huge lesson for life. The kneading and mixing of that dough is an analogy to the situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives.

When I have challenges in life, it’s helpful to work with what I’ve got and try to improve things (rather than complain!). Kind of like manipulating things, trying a creative idea, turning it over in my head, and then just letting it sit for awhile.

Then I turn around and the situation is (often) better.  Hey, everything seems easier – lighter and fluffier – to deal with, braid and then form into a delicious result, after letting things sit for awhile.

Like those small things that I sweat (sometimes): The argument with a spouse, the pain in the foot, the sadness at moving away, the adult child’s poor choice, the difficulty dealing with a colleague, the feeling snubbed by someone, the guilty feeling of saying the wrong thing, and on and on.

How many of these things can be worked with creatively rather than mixing them in the same old way every time?

And how often can we just let the stuff sit and sit until it rises ever so slowly but surely to a higher and lighter texture?

I don’t know. For me, the challah preparation is so much more than an exercise in doing a mitzvah that Jewish women have been doing for centuries. It’s so much more than exercising my fingers and healing my arthritis.

It’s a reminder to me for working through the stuff in our life, without sweating it all. Just work with it. Then let it sit. Rise. And then stick it in that oven to bake.

Sometimes I’m really surprised at the great results.


School Diary #2: Ten Prayers for My Students in the New Year

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It is the time of year for prayers for a good year. I pray for my family, friends and loved ones, and my high school students.

This month I returned to the classroom after over 5 years since I’ve taught in a formal classroom. This opportunity came up early in the summer and I decided to dive in again to my old love of teaching English, literature and writing to 9th and 10th grade girls.

Each one of my students is a unique soul.

Here are some hopes and goals that I have for my students. They will work hard in my class and hopefully achieve success. For the 10 months of the school year, I have 10 prayers for my students to find, experience, feel, develop, learn, value, improve, grow, achieve and work…and so much more.

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I PRAY THAT:

  1. … each student finds and experiences her unique gifts. Whether that be writing poetry, essays, decorating bulletin boards or participating in debates.
  2. … each student feels accepted and loved by her teachers and peers.
  3. … each student develops self-control to regulate her classroom behavior.
  4. … each student learns accountability for turning in assignments and being prepared for class.
  5. … each student values the process of making errors and growing from them.
  6. … each student is comfortable asking questions when she doesn’t understand the material.
  7. … each student improves organization skills, including keeping books and papers in order.
  8. … each student grows in her capacity to not only hear, but listen to peers and teachers who are speaking.
  9. … each student achieves the social skills necessary to work in groups with her peers.
  10. … each student shares a love of books and the written word.

I ask G-d to allow me to provide an environment in the classroom that encourages my students to blossom in the 10 ways above. Amen.

Stay tuned for weekly Teacher’s Diary updates.


SCHOOL DIARY #1: First Day of School Jitters (and how to deal)

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My grandson who is seven shared with me the other day that he is “scared” of second grade. Now mind you he’s a very bright student and a confident child…(Spoken like a true grandmother!). But still, he expressed what many of us feel each year as the summer winds down and the new year –with the first day of school and other firsts — creeps up on us.

Fear. Worry. Concern. How will things go?

All beginnings are hard, our sages tell us. As a teacher of high school, I have my own share of jitters in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Will my students do well? Will they behave? Will I have a good lesson planned? And so on.

I shared how I’m also nervous, but not to be a student. I’m jittery about the first day of school (in a few weeks) when I will be an teacher after a 6 year hiatus from that job.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I taught music in various settings. Between 2000 and 2009, I taught high school English in a local high school. Then, in 2009, I “retired” from teaching, partly due to burnout and partly to focus more on my writing career, my grandchildren, and my music therapy career. Sounds like a lot, and it was.

And now, I was approached by the principal of a small school to take on several English and language arts classes. This teaching job of approximately eight lessons per week will be on top of my already full load of music therapy patients.

As I told my grandson, I’m nervous. Why? Several reasons, but mostly because beginnings are often difficult and it’s relatively normal to have butterflies in our stomachs when starting new things. New auditions. New rehearsals. New roles. New anything.

So what do we do when we are worried about starting something new?

We draw on our old experiences and remind ourselves what we did right. And do more of that. In my case, I took out all my materials from years ago, and sorted through it all.

Things are different these days. More material online. Communication between administration, I’ve noticed, is less on paper and more via email and text. Grades are posted online. And students have computers in the classroom.

Kids have things to worry about too. Will they make friends, will they understand the material, and will they get picked in sports? Among other things.

This is also the time before the Jewish New Year, when we pray for a happy new year and lots of good things to come. A  certain amount of concern and vigilance is in order. 
 
Maybe it’s a healthy sign for us to have some degree of anxiety at this time. That motivates us to pray, to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days.

How do you get motivated to do the preparation necessary for good beginnings? Do you have any sense of fear or anxiety when starting new things? How do you cope?


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