It is important for everyone involved to realize that it is not easy for many parents to ask for help. Doing so forces us to admit that we are no longer as young, as strong or as resilient as we once were. It is something we are afraid to acknowledge especially to ourselves. It is also something our children do not want to hear. It hints at our mortality, our aging, at everything they, and we, don’t want to think about. And so we all pretend that nothing has changed for us in the last 20 or 30 years.
We all want to enjoy time with our families. We all look forward to it. We just need to learn how to share the tasks so that it is enjoyable for all of us and no one is overburdened. That is what successful families do. But how?
Here are some of my ideas:
Baby Boomer women who are making the Sedarim or otheryom tov mealswhile caring for ill partners and/or aging parents, out-of-town children and grandchildren, etc. need to begin asking guests for assistance. Delegating some of the work makes the yom tov not only easier to put together, but lessening the stress helps makes the time more pleasant for everyone. A burden shared is easier to carry. Asking people ahead of time to take on certain responsibilities, like helping set the table, serve or clear, taking young children out to play or cooking a specific dish in their home and bringing it, involves everyone in the festivities and helps minimize the work load. Parents need to verbalize clearly what they want in their home. Whether it is lights shut when a room is empty, or diapers and dirty clothes not left on the floor, it is their home and children should avoid doing what makes them uncomfortable. But our children cannot read our minds. We need to ask andask appropriately. However, asking is not an opportunity for criticism. Save those discussions for another time.
Husbands need to learn when it is time to let go of having the Seder in their home ‘for the sake of their wives’ and spend yom tov at the home of their children. For many fathers this can be difficult. Letting your son lead the Seder while you are a guest at his table, is seen by many as giving up their place as the head of the household. Many children understand this and will often let the father lead the Seder in the child’s home. But this needs to be discussed beforehand and not left to chance. It needs to be discussed honestly by the men and not argued among the wives. Hopefully, some agreeable compromise that satisfies everyone’s customs and preferences can be decided upon.
Mothers going to their children for yom tov should let the daughters decide what assistance they would appreciate. They may want you to cook that favorite dish or just spend time with the grandchildren so they can cook. How and what to serve, whom to invite and the rules for their children are their call. Your method may not be theirs and their space needs to be as respected as you would like yours to be.
Married children visiting their parents’ home need to remember they are adults. If you would not allow your 3-year-old to bang on the glass of the china cabinet or build a fort with the crystal goblets at your friend’s home, why is it suddenly permissible at your parents’ home? If your mother would like the toys put away once the children are in bed, don’t argue that it’s just a waste of time because the house will look the same once they wake up and you’ll clean it up in eight days before you leave. Remember it is their home and they have gotten used to a certain comfort level that we should respect.
Families need to care for and consider each other. If everyone pitches in, if we are honest and open about our needs and wants and don’t expect our relatives to read our mind, then our families will not be as excited to see us go as they were to see us come, no matter whose house we are celebrating in. Ultimately, our grandchildren will learn from their parents’ behavior how to behave when they are adults and visiting their parents for yom tov, just as we baby boomers taught our children that we can do it all, no problem.
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