Dear Dr. Yael,
Hope you had a nice Yom Tov. I had a great Yom Tov, but I wanted to share some of my personal experiences that I discussed with my friends and we decided that I would represent our “Sandwich Generation” or shall I call us the “Shmata Generation.” We all love our married children and grandchildren and many of us are blessed with parents as well. So from my personal support group we decided to share with you a humorous letter that may help others in our situation deal with Yom Tov from our perspective.
Our married children usually arrive as close to Yom Tov as possible. Why can’t they come earlier? Even if they live close by, this seems to be a universal theme for all of us. We were trying to understand how our very frum children, many whom are learning in kollel and very strict with many chumrahs that we must follow to accommodate their kashrus wishes, etc., seem relaxed about coming late for Shabbos or Yom Tov. Why don’t they leave early so that they do not run into the extra minutes that should be used only if necessary?
As representing my personal support group of parents of married children we wonder what happens after they arrive for Yom Tov and if in fact they allow their boisterous children the freedom in their own homes that they permit in our homes. Over Yom Tov our little crews, baruch Hashem, turned our homes into hurricanes. 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 the price is free. They do accept cookies, candy and all the other junk not fit to eat.
If you want chocolate faux paint on your walls, you can get your artistic crew to create original paintings on your walls from their adorable chocolate fingerprints. Free wake up service is also available at no charge so that the house is noisy to ensure that you don’t oversleep.
They are all adorable but when you have ten grandchildren under the age of ten at the same time, it can really get wild. The fighting doesn’t stop and it looks like a wrestling match. They are all adorable and we love having them. Grandchildren bring nachas and simchas, Nachas when they come and simchas when they leave.
When my friends and I went out to eat after Yom Tov for a nice dinner, we discussed our different experiences. While all our children seem to have rules in their own homes, they come to our homes, the homes that they themselves grew up in, and suddenly they are all on vacation. We not only cook and serve, we babysit and have to clean up all Yom Tov.
One of us had the best story of all. The day after Yom Tov she needed to get to work. She was looking for her car keys and both sets were not to be found.
She then realized that her one-person demolition team [she only had one family with one grandchild for that part of Yom Tov] must have either taken the keys home or hidden them. She called her daughter who looked everywhere to no avail. She took a cab to work figuring she would say the tefillah and put money in the pushka and hope that she will find the keys.
Thereafter, one of her younger children who came home from school, tried to think where his nephew would have hidden the keys and miraculously found the keys in the bottom of the closet in a case of grape juice. There were three sets of keys in one place. He also hid her husband’s second set of keys.
As a group we decided that he must have special talents for hiding the afikomen come this Pesach. We all laughed and had a great time. We love these children and grandchildren.
Dr. Yael, how do we tell our children to keep coming, but to try to help us keep the demolition crew under control and maybe come earlier to alleviate our anxiety regarding their arrival before Yom Tov or Shabbos. It seems that this trait of coming the last minute is a trait that all our married children have.
Someone from the “Shmata Generation”
Dear Someone from the “Shmata Generation,”
The sandwich generation definitely has to deal with a lot. Baruch Hashem, many people in the “sandwich generation” have parents and children that require their attention and sometimes it can be very overwhelming.
It is very possible that your children do not want to burden you more than necessary, so they wait till the very last minute to come. Perhaps if you just mentioned that you would prefer that they come earlier, they would make an effort to do so. You can say something like, “we love when you come for Yom Tov, but sometimes we worry when you come so close to Yom Tov. 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 by your house, but the reality is that their kids are off their schedules and it is hard to police your kids. The younger generation often has many children close in age and many of them are a bit overwhelmed. I don’t think they realize that they are dumping on you, but they can definitely learn to help out more. The children probably think they are on vacation; however, they likely do not realize how much work that becomes for you.
It may be a good idea to just make your needs known. 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 be able to enjoy them! It is definitely much more hectic when the children are around, but it is also a lot of nachas! It is hard to make some boundaries because you do not want the children to feel uncomfortable when they come; thus it may be smarter to just ask for the help you need when your children do come. Saying something like, “sweetheart, would you mind helping me with the food,” will most likely get a positive response and you won’t feel resentful for doing it all alone. 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 are not respecting 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 shmata. I hope that you continue to enjoy your parents and your children and that you have much nachas from the entire mishpacha!