A few weeks ago, Olam Yehudi’s inbox featured a letter in response to a column we had about jealousy among younger children. Reader Nikki Fried suggested a loving way of dealing with a number of grandchildren or nieces and nephews who all want your attention at the same time.
She wrote, “When they all try to speak at once, I will ask them to stop and speak one at a time.” In addition, she noted that “as long as the other child or children feel some physical contact, a hand on their shoulder or a lap underneath, they will not be so upset.” I thought it was a wonderful suggestion and I thank her for taking the time to write.
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite parenting tips, which comes from my mother, Morah Sonia Balsam. She told me that when we were children, if we were home and there was a phone call she needed to take, she would say “One minute, Mamele” and keep her hand on ours until she got off the phone.
I taught this tip for years to many mothers. In addition, with the advent of answering machines, I encourage mothers not to pick up the phone or get into lengthy conversations when their children are home.
Most of our children are out of the house for at least eight hours a day and, if they are boys, even longer. This gives us very little time to bond with them, so we must do everything we can to maximize the time we have and not give it away so easily. I know it’s difficult to do sometimes, and our attentions are split between all of our responsibilities, but it is so important, especially when they are young.
As they and we get older, we all have less time for each other. Each family must decide what will take priority – jobs, vacations, other family members, quality time for husband and wife, etc.
That’s another reason I appreciated Ms. Fried’s tip, it’s a way to connect to the important people in our lives without anyone losing out. The arm on the shoulder or any physical connection with the child or grandchild waiting to speak to you is brilliant.
What happens when you are on the phone and you get a click from a physician you were trying to reach or someone else that you must speak to? How do you tell the person who is on the phone that you must go without making him or her feel unimportant?
In some way you have to emotionally put your hand on the person’s shoulder by saying, “I would love to continue this conversation, but unfortunately I must take this call.” This can be said in a warm and congenial manner that does not hurt the other person’s feelings. When dealing with others, always think, “How would I like to be treated? Would I want someone to be so abrupt with me?” It takes just a few seconds to make another person feel special.
My housekeeper once commented that she couldn’t believe how often she hears everyone in our family say, “I love you” on the phone. In her culture, open affection is not as prevalent. However, ending a conversation with people with whom you are close by saying, “I love you” is a great way to bring cheer to their day. We should try to give and receive as much support as we can in this challenging world.
As we get closer to summer, let’s remember to: Drive carefully, wear helmets, watch out for our young children, lock the pools, and take better care of each other.