As I begin to express my thoughts, the words of an old song – “What’s the matter with kids today?” – cross my mind.
This past Sukkos my husband and I were privileged to be guests in our children’s homes. We actually divided our time between two families, while a third joined us from out of state.
We loved being catered to after years of doing the catering, and of course we delight in spoiling our grandchildren. However, I am deeply disturbed by what I witnessed throughout our stay – namely the lack of patience displayed by our children towards their children. Let’s face it: kids are kids. A spilled drink from an accidentally overturned cup is hardly an uncommon occurrence, yet you’d have thought that the poor child committed the biggest crime, for which he was instantly banished to his room.
Our grandchildren were in fact continuously berated by their parents and much too often, puzzlingly, ordered to “go to bed!” Really? In the middle of the day? Now what purpose could that serve, I wanted to ask but hesitated to intervene. I found the womenfolk to be particularly intolerant and impatient with their kids, and it was all I could do to keep from interfering with their disciplinary tactics.
I realize that times are tough and especially stressful when both parents work to make ends meet. Still I can’t help but feel enormously sorry for my grandchildren, and I worry what they will take away from all of this. Children, as we know, do tend to emulate their parents.
This issue is eating at me and I am very tempted to say something, but my husband says to clam up and mind my own affairs. Why would it be wrong for me to say something to my children? They may not realize how they come across and might even appreciate a wake-up call.
My husband says you would side with him. I say his wanting to keep his nose out of it is very noble if it weren’t at the expense of our grandchildren’s wellbeing.
What should I do?
Speak up or Shut up? Dear Speak Up,
Juggling homemaking, childrearing and wage-earning to “make ends meet” (or, in many cases, to maintain one’s chosen lifestyle) can certainly make for a stressful environment all around. For the record, this is not to say that many enterprising young couples don’t manage multi-tasking proficiently.
Let’s talk about your particular issue. You were guests in the homes of your children for Yom Tov and another of your children joined you (with family) from out of town. A full house for the holidays can be a demanding load, not to mention all the beforehand planning and preparations. Your hosts may have simply been overwrought by it all and short on sleep.
As for you speaking up, your hubby is on the right track. Your words of criticism may or may not go over well, but why take a chance on jeopardizing the relationship you enjoy with your kids? They might feel resentful at your interference and put distance between you as a result.
Since you delight in spoiling your grandchildren, you can take it a step further and safely “interfere” by doing damage control on site. When you next happen upon a tense situation brewing, take the perceived troublemaker aside gently and engage him or her privately in a different activity or personal discussion, away from all the mayhem. This way you will help diffuse a potential outburst, as well as gain the benefit of forging a close bond with a grandchild who is likely to revel in the unexpected individualized special attention.
Parents have asked “What’s the matter with kids today?” for generations. But were we really a better, kinder, more respectful and less demanding bunch of kids in our day? (And who exactly raised those children who are now raising your grandchildren?) Did we, as parents, never lose patience with our kids and never lash out at them? For that matter, did we always temper love with discipline in all the right doses?
Grandparents are supposed to be all about giving unconditional love and practicing patience. Then again, grandparents are also free of the responsibility of raising their grandchildren. Hence, patience comes easier.
“Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way, what’s the matter with kids today…” ends the (1960) song. I don’t know about you, Grandma, but I’d bet that the better part of us were a far cry from “perfect in every way.”
Thanks for sending your thoughts along. Maybe some young “impatient” moms will take a cue from your letter and rethink their parenting techniques. You never know… In the meanwhile, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor — and resist the temptation to take on the role of meddling shvigger.
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