Dear Dr. Yael,
Now that Yom Tov season is behind us, I wanted to share some of my personal experiences. My friends and I are part of what has been called the “Sandwich Generation” and share similar situations. Yet, we feel more like the “Shmatta Generation.” We all love our married children and grandchildren and many of us are blessed with parents as well. The following is a humorous look at our lives that may help others in our situation.
Our married children arrive usually as close to Yom Tov as possible. Why they can’t come earlier even if they live not so far away is a question none of us can answer. We all wonder why it is that our very frum children, many whom are learning in kollel and have very strict chumrahs in regards to kashrus that we must accommodate, seem very relaxed about arriving on time for Shabbos or Yom Tov.
We also wonder if they allow their children the same amount of freedom in their individual homes as they do in ours. Over Yom Tov our grandchildren turn our homes into scenes that resemble the aftermath of a hurricane. It is amazing what a bunch of little guys can do! If you need a quick demolition team, they can get the job done in no time at all, and they won’t charge you a penny – they will, however, accept payments in cookies, candy and all the junk that is not fit to eat.
If you want chocolate faux paint on your walls, this artistic crew is sure to create original paintings. They also offer free wake up service – at decibel levels you can’t even begin to process.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them all, but having 10 grandchildren under the age of 10 means it gets really wild. The fighting doesn’t stop and wrestling matches go on all day. They say grandchildren bring nachas and simcha – that’s true, nachas when they first arrive and simcha when they leave to go home.
While all our children probably have rules of conduct in their own homes, when they come to us, they are suddenly on vacation. We not only cook and serve, we clean up and babysit.
One amazing story: The day after Yom Tov one of our friends got ready to go to work. As she looked to leave the house, she couldn’t find her car keys – either set. As there had only been one grandchild in her house for the second days, she assumed that either he took them with him or hid them somewhere in the house. She called her daughter who looked wherever she could, but to no avail. Running late, she took a cab to work figuring that when she came home she would say the tefillah for finding things and put money in the pushka.
Later in the day, one of my friend’s younger children decided to look through the house. He found the keys in a closet at the bottom of a case of grape juice – three sets of keys, that is. My friend’s two and her husband’s extra set.
Dr. Yael, as I said, we love our children and grandchildren, but how can we get them to help us keep the demolition crews under control and maybe come a little earlier to help and alleviate our anxiety?
We look forward to your response.
Members of the “Shmatta Generation”
The “Sandwich Generation” definitely has to deal with a lot. Baruch Hashem, many of us have parents and children that require our attention and it can often be overwhelming.
As to why your children show up at the last minute, it could be that they don’t want to burden any of you more than necessary, so they wait until the very last minute to come. It is possible that if you mention wanting them to come earlier, they would. You can say something like, “We love when you come for Yom Tov, but sometimes we worry when you come so close to the zman. Maybe you can come a little earlier, so we don’t have to worry.”
Regarding the demolition team, well that’s not really going to change. Your children should definitely try to have some sort of rules at your house, but the reality is that their kids are off schedule at your house and that makes it hard to police them. The younger generation often have many children close in age and they feel a bit overwhelmed. I often think they don’t realize how much additional work they are dumping on their parents. They may just be relieved not to have to do it all.
Make sure you ask for help with setting and cleaning up and let them know you need at least an hour to lie down, so you can be more refreshed and able to enjoy all the company. Saying something like, “Sweetheart, would you mind helping me in with the food,” will most likely get a positive response. You can also just announce that you need an hour or two to lie down and then you’ll be happy to read to the children or play a game with them. This tells your children that you won’t be available all afternoon to be with the kids, but that you can play with them a little later while they nap.
Communicating your needs in the moment will be most effective. If your children do not respect your wishes after you communicate them, then you may need to have a conversation about it. Most likely, your children are just not thinking about your needs and are not purposely trying to make you into a shmatta.
I hope that you continue to enjoy your parents and your children and that you have much nachas from the entire mishpacha!Dr. Yael Respler