Last week I interrupted a series of columns on the subject of “holiday mayhem,” concerning the problems faced by many families whose adult children come home for Yom Tov with their families.
Our letter writers expressed frustration at the attitudes of their daughters and daughters-in-law who feel they are on vacation when they come home for Yom Tov. Specifically, they spoke of the insensitivity of their children who act as though they were at a resort that offers maid, dining, and baby-sitting services.
The question they posed was, How can we register our annoyance without damaging our relationship?
B’ezrat Hashem, I now hope to respond to that challenge.
My Dear Friends:
To begin with, your complaint is not unique to your families. I do not mean this to be an expression of comfort, for I do not believe any decent person derives consolation from the knowledge that other people share their difficulties. My mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, of blessed memory, was always annoyed when people tried to offer comfort by pointing to those who had even greater tsoris.
“Should it make me happy to know that someone else has even more trouble than I do?” she would ask irritably.
I have never forgotten her words and I try not to resort to this type of glib response when people speak of their personal pain. So why am I mentioning this? Because parents have a way of flagellating themselves – “It must be my fault. I didn’t raise them properly!” This self-condemnation can be endless, so I would like to assure all those mothers and fathers who blame themselves for their childrens’ chutzpah that it is not necessarily they who are responsible, but that the root of the problem may be traced to cultural aberrations that are symptomatic of our times.
Nowadays, people (and there are always exceptions to every rule) have an attitude that in Yiddish is referred to as “es kumpt mir” – “it’s coming to me” or “I am entitled.” Always entitled and never indebted. Appreciation is a foreign concept to this generation; a genuine, heartfelt “thank you” is rarely heard. And the colossal chutzpah of this generation is often manifested by a lack of kibud av va’em (honoring father and mother).
Having said that, let us try to deal with the problem at hand. Some people would advise these mothers to remain silent and be grateful they have children who are willing to come home. “Keep your mouth closed and your pocketbook open,” they may recommend, quoting a Yiddish saying: “Years ago, parents taught children to speak. Today, children teach parents to be silent.”
I do not believe that we, the Jewish people, who heard G-d Himself proclaim “honor your father and mother,” should ever accept such perfidy or compromise our legacy in favor of a vacuous and decadent society. Rather than parents “zipping their lips,” they have a responsibility to talk and teach. Obviously, precautions must be taken that this be done in a positive, constructive manner rather than in a destructive and harmful way.
Some Practical Suggestions
When you invite your children or when they call and announce their intention to spend Yom Tov with you, speak with joyous enthusiasm: “Daddy [or Abba or Tatie] and I will be so happy to have you with us for Yom Tov.”
I included the various titles with which children refer to their fathers, for they reflect different shades of Jewish observance and, sadly, in situations such as this all groups are equally affected.
Today’s parent/child relationships are, to say the least, not what they were years ago, and in expressing delight at your children’s forthcoming visit, ground rules often need to be laid down. But how to do this without offending is the challenge.