Where Justice Went Wrong
By: Linda Dayan
Teaching a woman how to be a grandmother is like teaching a child how to enjoy an ice cream cone with colored sprinkles! This is a position that has been earned after the many years of raising children and then being blessed to watch them raise their own.
We can always look for ways to improve ourselves, at any stage of life. So whether you are Savta, Grandma or Sito, let’s get some ideas of how to be the most wonderful and happy grandmother possible.
New Age Grandmas
Do you have memories of your own grandmother… who had a thick accent when she tried to speak to you in English? Do you recall that not only was she from the “old country,” but she was old?! It’s also likely that most of her time was spent in the kitchen. In our generation, it seems that more grandmothers are young and/or young at heart, on the run, and perhaps even taking care of small children. And though it may seem that a different skill set is demanded of grandmothers in the 21stcentury, there’s probably more to be gained by emulating many of the old world traditions of our own sitos than in adapting the habits of their modern counterparts.
Feel Like the Peanut Butter in the Sandwich Generation?
Some women also share the responsibility of looking after their elderly parents or in-laws. It can be stressful when we have multiple obligations. When giving thought to prioritizing your time properly, try to look at the “big picture.” In general, considering whether our presence is indispensable in each situation, can help us decide where to be when. With multiple roles come multiple rewards. Giving of yourself as a wife, daughter, mother and grandmother is a zechut (privilege), but always remember your own personal limitations, keeping in mind to take care of yourself, as well.
A Grandmother’s Greatest Gift – Love
Having a loving relationship with grandchildren is a gift beyond compare. As the catchphrase goes: “Welcome to Grandma’s house… Children spoiled while you wait.”
From the time a baby is born, he/she can expect barrels of total, unconditional love from Grandma. Eventually, as the child grows, they often come back to Grandma’s warm, cozy kitchen to share their feelings and consult about topics that may be difficult for them to broach with their parents. With Grandma, the fear of judgment or criticism is rarely an issue. Of course, such trust is not instilled overnight. It begins when your grandchildren are very young. But don’t feel overwhelmed, feeling that you have to win the “Grandmother of the Year” award. Bonding with them in their early years can be as easy as spending fun time together. The opportunities are endless. Any activity that they find interesting and that you enjoy will work best to create fond memories and a warm connection. Just letting the kids lend you a hand making dinner may be a new and appealing experience for them.
If you find it too challenging to spend time with more than one grandkid at a time, connect with each one at a different opportunity. In any case, Joey would rather go bowling with you and Esther prefers that you help her with scrap booking.
One of the most meaningful gifts you can offer, is to let your grandchildren see you in action performing acts of hesed (kindness). Take a grandchild along with you when making your weekly visit to your elderly aunt (when appropriate); bake hallah and let them see how you make sure to bring one over to the new family who just moved into the neighborhood. These are precious memories in the making, which instill fine values, as well.
Unconditional Does Not Equal Unlimited
While Grandma’s love may know no bounds, behavior at Grandma’s house should have clear boundaries. Try to “childproof” the house, as much as possible, before the troops arrive. You don’t want to spend the day repeating, “Don’t touch that!” (or worse, “How did you break that?”).
The rules at your house may be different from your children’s. Don’t be shy about letting everyone know, for example, “Here we don’t allow standing on the sofa.” Giving grandchildren too much freedom in Grandma’s home will be unpleasant for all, in the long run.
You’re Older, So Be Wiser
It’s bound to happen, probably within the week of your first grandchild’s birth. You will observe your daughter or daughter-in-law doing something with her new baby that you think is not the ideal way. You ponder how so fortunate she is to have you by her side, since you are a “wealth of information and experience” on this topic. After all – you raised a few of your own (including her or her husband!).
But don’t let your parental instincts overcome your wisdom as grandparent. Looking the other way on non-critical issues can be challenging for a loving and caring grandmother. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that parenting is the responsibility of the parents. Of course, no one expects a caring grandmother to sit by idly if she notices something that is dangerous or severe (and no, decisions regarding use of a pacifier are generally not considered dangerous or severe). Advice should be offered delicately and usually, sparingly.
So, enjoy the perks of grandmotherhood. Sure, your “job description” may change from one day to the next, but those adorable smiles and tight hugs when they see you, will always make it all worthwhile.
During vacations, we try to schedule “Fun Day with Grandma.” I make no other commitments for that day and prepare activities, usually indoors. Some of the projects we have done: making our own ice cream, creating colored sand (salt) bottles, planting, and baking cutout cookies. I let them “help” me make a yummy lunch, which we eat together. The part they like best… I take pictures of them doing each activity and print them on my home printer so they have a little booklet to show their parents what they did all day.
Since I have teenaged children at home, they usually help lots with their nieces and nephews. It’s a win/win situation. My kids are learning how to deal with babies and young children, and the little ones enjoy the extra attention that their aunts and uncles provide.
I have a list of everyone’s birthday – each of my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. I make sure to send each one of them a check on their special day. They know that they can spend it however they wish. Even the little ones who live in Israel (they don’t see me often) receive this gift along with my blessings, when I call. This is my way of keeping the extended family close and in touch.
Mrs. Rae Dayan
Next Issue: Breakfast: The most important meal of the day.