Contact Me

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

Contact Me

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

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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.

 


Remodeling Mania

When we made the decision to renovate our kitchen a few months ago, it was a long time coming. I had fantasized for years about having a brand new kitchen with shiny appliances, fancy wood design and smooth granite countertops. Recalling the many magazines I had perused over the years, I knew it was going to be fun, even with the budget we had in mind.

As we said good-bye to our old kitchen which over time had developed the “distressed” look, we looked forward to newer, pretty ones…

Soon came the mess of the demolition. IMG_2245

 

But we were overall kind of  relaxed.

Then came the decisions. I recall telling the contractor, “I’m not picky. You lead the way, show me a few choices and I’ll tell you what I like.”

I never thought I’d be the type to fuss over paint color or wood design. At the end of the day,  I knew what I liked, what I didn’t liked, and I would make quick decisions and move on. Please don’t give me too many choices, I told the guy in charge. I have my life and as much as I was happy to have this new project in my life, I didn’t want to become too engrossed, obsessed, or materialistic.

Well, here we are, six weeks into the project, and as the saying goes, “the more belongings, the more worries.”  My husband calls them “first world problems.”

Last night I couldn’t sleep because I suddenly realized in middle of the night that maybe a few weeks ago when they did the electricity,  they didn’t put enough outlets near the counter. What if I want to plug in my laptop over there? I ran downstairs to check (true story) and sure enough there were two outlets in that area.

The other day I argued with the contractor because I want a built-in microwave  and he claimed there’s no room in my kitchen layout. He says I’d have to sacrifice cabinet space. He claims we “discussed it in the beginning.”

First world problems. Hubby is right. There are so many problems in the world now, and all I have to think about is my silly kitchen?

Today the discussion was about the color of the cabinets. I thought they were white and now they are looking off white to me. What’s going on?

The lighting. That’s the excuse they give. When the flooring came, I told the guy it was too dark. He looked at me like I was nuts.

The contractor talked me out of that worry pretty fast. I find that I’m very gullible these days. The bathroom tile came out the wrong color.

“Oh, really?” I say. “You mean it’s okay not to have a ______ (fill in the blanks) even though that was my dream? No room? Okay, okay.”

Truthfully, as I read this post over again, I want to delete it all change my attitude. To get my priorities straight. I don’t want to be preoccupied (forever) with granite, tiles, flooring, cabinets, and appliances. I don’t really enjoy this kind of stuff, but I am getting sucked into it somehow.

I really would love if all these decisions would be made for me by the guys who know better. But there’s that little voice inside me that wants to control, who wants to pick and choose.

It’s okay to pick and choose. It’s okay to enjoy the process, I tell myself. But when the process starts to take over my life, that’s not okay anymore.

After all, as my husband says, if these were my worst problems in life, I’d be pretty okay. And he’s right.

There are several things I’ve learned from this experience. One is that when I get overly engrossed in little things in my life, I have to take a step back and breathe deeply. It’s all going to be okay.

The other is not to judge those who are more materialistic, especially myself! It’s okay sometimes to like nice things, isn’t it?

Breathe. Breathe. Anyone have similar experiences where you have to take a step back and relax? Tell me about it in the comment section below.


On Storms and Earthquakes

East Coasters have storms. Hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, snow, blizzards. They get it all. The wind, the downed power lines, the trees fall, the electricity goes out, and the basements flood. It’s bad.

Here on the West Coast, we get earthquakes. No warning. Suddenly the earth shakes, and bookshelves go flying, dishes fall out of cabinets, picture frames collapse, dressers fall down, freeways fall. It’s bad.

G-d controls the world, and natural disasters are part of our world. What do we learn from them? How do we prepare? There are ways to prepare ourselves for natural disasters, and we would be wise to listen to the experts and take those steps, for long term preparation for earthquakes. Short term preparation for when a hurricane is coming.

But at the end of the day, there is not much we can do. We have to trust that G-d runs the world. G-d will take care of us. Can we control our storms within ourselves? Can we control the earthquakes within our pysches? Can we control the tempest that rules us when we are upset, angry or anxious? These are questions I often ask myself.

These are things I can possibly control and work on. My character traits, my behavior, my actions, are all facets of my life that I know I can take charge of – and aim to quiet the roaring within me, and stay calm and relaxed.

That it the ultimate goal – for me, and probably for each one of us – taming the tempest within our souls.

The aftermath of a recent storm, Hurricane Sandy – has created many problems for the Northeastern  U.S. – lack of power, lack of water, schools are out, subways are not running, gas stations are low on fuel. Lots of issues. How do they —- and we— remain calm when the storm has calmed, but the anxieties remain? That is the question. My heart goes out to those in the East Coast, and I pray that they can handle their tests that are coming to them in the future days with calm and resolve. I know they will. East Coasters are tough!


Fuhgettaboutit!! (and other great techniques!)

I have some friends and acquaintances whose initials of their first and last names are CC. Some even have the middle initial C, making their name CCC. A few of my friends are speech and language pathologists whose credentials are CCC. (Certified….something or other…I”ll google it later!). But, today’s brief topic is a different type of three C’s.

I read it on a 12-step list of concepts, relating to my struggle with overeating…and my powerlessness over food.  Rabbi Dr.  Abraham J. Twersky, expert in relationships, self esteem and addictive personalities, talks about it in all his Torah-oriented books. It has become one of my mantras for living and self-growth: I didn’t Cause it. I cannot Cure it. I cannot Control it.

There, you have it. The next time someone in my life’s comments or behaviors are particularly irksome, annoying, or inappropriate to me, I can simply accept the reality that I cannot fix others. I can only change myself.

All very simple sounding, and quite obvious. Yet this quotable quote  is a reminder to me to focus on myself in growth, and “fuhgettabout” the others’ annoying stuff —- because I can’t do a thing about it anyway!

Okay – off to do my day now! Have a great and productive day!

Remember the CCC’s! They can really help out in a pinch!


Letting Go of the Remote Control

An all-too familiar situation:

Here’s the scenario:  I see something going on in my surroundings – whether with my adult kids, or with a close friend, or even with a colleague at work.  I think about it a lot,  decide I know better, and make an assessment. A voice inside me says “stay out of it” but I don’t heed that voice. Another voice says, “help them, get involved, say something.”

Eeny meeny miney moe. Which voice to listen to? I listen to the second voice – the busybody one.

CLANG! I realize immediately that I shouldn’t have! Voice #1  inside me says, “you knew better than to get involved….”

Proactive or Reactive?

There is a new word the past decade or so: proactive. That refers to taking care of things ahead of time, planning for the future so that there is more chance of success.  Pushing the buttons on the Remote Control – the mechanism that thinks we can control and take care of everything in the world. We are going to save the day.

Proactive is a great thing. But usually “proactive” is for one’s own life. Not someone else’s life.

In fact, when one gets involved in someone else’s life, it often only complicates things for them —– and for us. It doesn’t help.

Shouting (to myself!) to Stop!

So when I read about people in books and periodicals who have dilemmas “should I or shouldn’t I?”…..I want to scream through the pages of the book, “DON’T!….. Stay out of it! It’s a train wreck!” But then again, I can’t tell them what to do. It’s their life to live (even if it’s just a fictional account in a book!).I think unless something is in a  life and death situation, or in a case of abuse or serious danger, OR if that person specifically asks for help (and even then it’s probably best to refer to professionals – a friend should never take the place of professionals), then it is best to stay out of it.

Prayer and relinquishing control:

Sometimes I really have to protect myself from places that I am not equipped to navigate the difficult waves.  Prayer always is a good thing. We can pray for the well-being of others, let G-d take over, relinquish control. And then give them love and encouragement.  And finally focus on the one place that we were given power to change: ourselves.


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