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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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.

 

 


13 Resentment Ridders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peaceful

 


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.

 


Simchas and Stress

This morning I woke up feeling charley horse, achy, and with a sore throat. As I reached for the Advil, I wondered why I was feeling this way. True, I had attended an out-of-town  family wedding the night before, and yes, I had traveled quite a bit the past few days both by plane and by car. But I didn’t do much exercise to warrant all the achy feelings; aside from a little bit of circling around the bride in a joyful dance, I didn’t exert myself too much. I didn’t drink any wine, so no excuse for a feeling of a hangover, and I didn’t even stay up too late.

So why was I feeling this way? Well, to quote my friend, a Bubby: “traveling and simchas are always exhausting.” (a Bubby quotable quote!)  There is just no way out of it.  If every day, we have the usual stress of work and the phenomenon called life, then when we travel on vacation, and/or when we participate in family occasions, we have a unique form of stress: SIMCHA STRESS.

Simcha Stress:

This unique form of stress- (for those planning it, and for others who are close to those who are planning the event), manifests itself in  heartache or physical aches. Simchas, which are supposed to be happy occasions, are peppered with little annoyances and bumps in the road. Simchas, which are joyous weddings, engagements, bar mitzvah’s, and graduations are often accompanied by deadlines, pressure, lists, shopping, expenses, and endless details that cause lots of tension.

Simcha – which means “happy” in Hebrew, produces anything but simcha, for many. But at the end of the day, no one is changing the word, “simcha” to “lachatz” which means pressure in Hebrew. Nope. No one is saying, “hey, can you come to my lachatz next week to be held at the Hilton Hotel?

 Time to Smile:

No Jewish person on the East or West Coasts is inviting their friends to their wonderful Pressure Party. Not any time soon.

You see, even though I have experienced my share of stress amidst simchas in the past (including the achy shoulder that I have right now!), I still feel that no Jewish family should be without a steady stream of simchas – happy occasions — in their life.

Stress and all. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Time to Count our Blessings:

I believe that simchas are what keeps us going. Simchas are the water that G-d sprinkles on our souls to fertilize our spirits to grow and soar. Simchas give us that message that G-d loves us, that life is good, that we are blessed, and that it is okay to feel happy and celebrate.

Simchas are times to socialize and accept mazel tov wishes.

And most of all, simchas teach us priorities, and help us realize what is really important. Even when little things go wrong and glitches arise, we keep our simcha as our goal — our families’ and friends’ happiness and joie de vivre.

Because when it all comes down to it, we can deal with a little bit of burnt chicken, canceled guests, and rain on the outdoor ceremony. After all is said and done, we can rise above the little inconveniences and feel gratitude to G-d for providing us with loving families, children, and grandchildren with whom to plan and celebrate simchas (and pressure too!)


Out of the Mouths of Bubbies!

Ahhh…Grandmothers just say the most amazing things…don’t they (we?).

Bubby conversations. Or as I like to call them: Bubby Convo’s. Yes, whenever I talk to my friends, and especially my middle-aged (!) friends, many of whom are grandmothers, I learn so much from them. I am always surprised, impressed, excited, and enlightened when I hear a quotable quote from my friends who share my role as doting grandmother, but more so – insight-seeking grandmother.

And often that means that I have – you guessed it – more material for my blog, and other writing!

And so, I have decided to start something new: a collection of quotable quotes from my friends – those who have accumulated a great deal of life wisdom, and have come up with some great one liners.

Here is one:

From a 50-plus friend of mine – “I WANT TO DIE YOUNG AND GROW OLD”

How many of us bemoan the fact that we are growing older?

Well, what’s the alternative? (that was a rhetorical question – please don’t answer it).

Seriously, it’s a reminder to us that that growing old gracefully (whatever that means!) is our goal. With the help of G-d!

Another one:

From a 95 year old woman, very dear friend of our family, —spoken in convo to my husband and myself in a car ride home from a wedding –

“IT’S FUNNY – I STILL SEE YOU AS CHILDREN, AND  FORGET THAT YOUR GENERATION IS ALL GROWN UP…..”

How profound – another reminder to me – that “hey – I’m not the only one getting older! Everyone does too!! Get used to it, and try to relate…” (although it can be hard sometimes, as this wise woman recognized)

One more quote:

From a 50 plus friend of mine – as posted on her social media site online –

“IF ONLY THEY GAVE AN AWARD FOR PROCRASTINATION…..”

Gotta love her honesty.

And this one’s for you – my dear friend, Savta B, I followed your subsequent suggestion – that I blog about that quote! (without procrastinating? Huh?)

Stay tuned for more quotable quotes from the mouths of Bubbies, Savta’s and others……to be continued!


Blogging about Balance

Well, I am a woman of my word, or I try to be. I wrote in yesterday’s post three proclamations: a) that “just for today” (yesterday!), I would veer off my grandmother topic, and write about food and weight struggles. (refer to yesterday’s post, “Just for Today” …).  b) that I would follow my food program just for the day. c) that I would report back to you  (the readers out there) how I did.

And I can now declare that I have completed the above homework. Yes, yesterday I kept saying to myself: I can’t be a liar. I have to tell the truth, (to X number of followers of this blog).  So since I have said to X number of followers of this blog that JUST FOR TODAY I will do the above three things (and avoid doing many other things – such as eat the trigger foods that cause me to veer off my plan),  I really must complete the assignment. So yay me! I stayed on program. Great.

Now for today, I just need to do it again. No problem. Same thing again. Change the food around a bit (this is Weight Watchers – refer to their link for more info), shake it up, but still stay on program- within points.

And now: Back to my regular topic: the grandmother topic. Just as I promised. Continue reading


The Crooked Cap

My grandson graduated from nursery school yesterday.

When I got to the backyard where the “event” (sounds a bit formal for 4 year olds – doesn’t it?) was being held, I took a seat in the front row – next to his mom.  As soon as the kids came marching into place on the stage (with their teacher leading them in song),  I searched for my grandson among the group, and zeroed right in to watch him in his debut.

I turned to my daughter-in-law and whispered, “Why is his hat crooked?”

She said, “Ma, he’s FOUR.”

True. He’s four. I’m fifty two. And I’m worrying about his slanted sailor cap on his head. Continue reading


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