Motherhood

New and Improved Relationships

Relationships in blogging are an interesting thing.  Over the years, I’ve followed many blogs, some of which I still read, some not so much.  Some don’t even exist anymore.  It’s similar with my interactions here on this blog.  I’ve enjoyed building relationships, as it were, through the comments (and emails!  I do enjoy emails!), and over the years I’ve seen certain commenters come and go (no hard feelings, but it’s always a little sad when people disappear).

Somewhat recently, I noticed a new face pop up in the comments section, Miriam Hendeles, who you can find over at her blog Bubby Joys and Oys (isn’t that a great title?).  I was so pleased when she sent me an email (did I mention that I like emails?) about doing a guest post.  Yay!

Even though our target audiences are somewhat different, I think that there’s almost always benefit in listening to different perspectives on a similar theme.  Also, Miriam and I have a good deal in common, as we’re both writers (though she has the accomplishment of publishing a book to kvell about – more on that in a bit!), and we both have backgrounds in music!  She works as a music therapist for elderly patients, and I gather for other populations who can benefit from the power of music.  I love that.  Because music is so powerful, it really is.

A Giveaway!

Having a baby is an exciting event, but one thing I never really considered is that in addition to someone becoming a mother, there’s also someone becoming a grandmother!  In Miriam’s book, Mazel Tov!  It’s a Bubby!, she shares her humorous and refreshing take on what it’s like to “give birth” to a grandmother (a bubby), by recounting her experiences as she went through the process herself.  There’s a glossary in the back, so you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the book.  :)

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To win a copy of the book, just leave a comment below about your favorite memory of a grandmother, or maybe your favorite experience as a grandmother! A winner will be picked in one week (Sunday, the 25th), so entries will be closed at midnight next Saturday night (that’s the 24th).  

And now, for Miriam’s guest post.  Enjoy!  And check out her blog!

~ ~ ~

While reading a woman’s magazine a few weeks ago, I came across a letter to the editor from a reader who was responding to an article about the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship. The gist of her letter was her resentment towards her daughter-in-law who “doesn’t do things the way we raised our children.” The letter enumerated the daughter-in-law’s sins in the writer/mother-in-law’s opinion, such as not keeping a neat home, and not cooking balanced meals for the children.

I don’t know the writer’s motives for asserting her opinion in an international magazine, but I wonder whether she was maybe hoping that the subject of the letter would read or find out about it, see the error of her ways and improve.

Now I don’t know the mother-in-law. nor the daughter-in-law in discussion. Yet, the tone of the letter struck me as negative and hostile. In fact, what really hit me about the letter was that I completely did not relate to the those sentiments.

I won’t go into the details of how I adore my daughters-in-law, how I cannot even believe they married my sons (okay, I’m exaggerating here), and how the way they raise their kids and run their homes is just fine with me (not that I pay too much attention – who has the time?).

But I will say this about moms in general these days, the ones I see around town, the ones I know through various associations in our community and the ones who are related to me (cousins, nieces, etc):

Moms are doing things differently – better and more sophisticated – than I did a generation ago.  When my kids were growing up, they must have watched and observed my every mistaken move and thought “G-d help me – I will never be that kind of mom…”  Then, they turned around and became the upgraded, polished model of Motherhood.  And I have to admit; for the most part these kids-turned-adults succeeded. They’re doing a darn good job.

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Now I’m not talking about the moms on either end of the spectrum, the ones who are either incessantly hovering over or completely oblivious to their children.

Instead, I’m talking about those moms who seem to have it all together. The moms who go to parenting classes weekly or twice weekly, just to learn how to communicate with their children. The moms who put those lessons into practice for all the older world to see – and be amazed.

I’m referring to the moms whose teenage sons go shopping for them and don’t even have to desperately ask the grownup shoppers where the Russet  potatoes are as opposed to the Idaho potatoes. Wow. Such sophisticated and well-educated children.

These moms know what they are doing and deserve to have us oldies admiring them or at least not criticizing their every move.

When I became a mother-in-law and grandmother, I had a list of “Promises to Self.”  Most of my resolutions had to do with breaking away from the stereotypical grandmother who tells the younger mom on the street, “Don’t you know how to raise your child?”  “If that were my child….”  Or – and this is the worst one – “Your child is freezing! Aren’t you going to put him on a sweater?!”

I always have viewed those elders as.annoying (read: rude and obnoxious). And I absolutely did not want to be like them, so I promised to myself that I’d become a mother-in-law and grandmother who really looks for the good in the younger generations. And finds it.  And so I  became a new and improved grandmom by composing my makeshift  “Never-to-do” list.

Typical items on my list : “NEVER pinch your grandchildren’s cheeks – it hurts!” and “NEVER brag about your grandchildren when you’re out to dinner with your friends.” (the latter one I am still working on. Effort counts).

And then the most challenging for many mothers-in-law: “NEVER criticize your children’s parenting.”   “Never criticize your grandchildren’s manners.”

Actually, when I observe the young couples in my neighborhood, I don’t have a need to  criticize.  Watching how put-together they are leaves me with an inferiority complex, rather than an urge to correct.    It seems to me they are doing their job as mommies with so much more ease than I remember my stage of  Mommyhood.

Rather, the women these days are cool, confident in their parenting (to me anyway). And their kids seem so happy and well behaved. Could it be that just when I see them, they are actually doing their homework assignment on the parenting classes I alluded to above?  I wonder.

This is not about perfection here either. This is about a mom who tries her best to do what’s right for her kid, and then just as easily talks about how she lets her kids watch DVD’s when things get hectic at home.

It’s about a mom who may have one child who has special needs, yet  faces the reality and deals with the situation without the denial that was so much a part of my generation.

And it’s about moms who work part time or full time to help earn a living, and still find time to take their children to the park, library and family events.

It’s not easy being a mom of little kids. I know because I have a good memory of when I raised my sons. It was pretty hectic (read: craziness). Not just in the morning getting them off to school, but in the evenings.

I’m happy being a grandmother who can look and marvel, appreciate and admire.

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So to all the young moms out there, I say: Continue to do what you’re doing. And try not to listen to the old lady on the street who tells you to bundle up your kid, or take off the sweater, or this or that.  Every child is different, and every parent is different. What works for one person, may not work for the other one. Just do things the way you know best. Be yourself, enjoy your parenting role right now.

Because at the end of the day, your own kids will likely turn around as adults and do things the exact opposite of the way you did them, leaving you to either bite your tongue, or gush at their brilliance and competence.

We, as parents can criticize and chastise. Or we can be a new and improved version of grandmothering ; we can view the younger generation as “new and improved” with their own choices and lives to live. We can find things to encourage and praise. It’s a choice, and I know which one I have chosen. What about you?

Now please excuse me while I just check on my grandchildren and change the DVD. You see, I’m babysitting for them while their mother is out, and I just had to keep them busy while I wrote this post!

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38 thoughts on “New and Improved Relationships

  1. How nice to get some positive feedback!! I have one most minor disagreement – when someone tells you (especially in Israel) to put a hat on your baby, understand that they care about your baby almost as much as you do, and just don’t want to see the kid catch pneumonia, chas v’shalom. :) It took me a long time to learn to glory in Israel’s buttinsky culture.

      1. Yup – Israelis and Sabras are in a distinct category and their remarks (while made in Israel) are understood as somewhat appropriate for the culture… I agree with Rachel!

  2. I have always lived with my mawmaw. There are a lot of memories but if i have to pick obe it would be of the “cookies” she makes around thanksgiving called magic bars. Not only has she taught me how to make them but she has slowly been handing over recipes from her mom and mawmaw. :)

  3. One of my favourite memories of my grandmother is one of the last times I saw her. We were so very close. I even slept in her bed my first five years of life! After my grand father past away my mother and father came to live with her and brought along with the a very colicy baby (me!) We bonded instantly and were close until she passed when I was 14.
    She had an undiagnosed neurological disorder that left her with Parkinson-like tremours and slowly shut her body down little by little until my poor grandmother was unable to move, eat or communicate in any way. Unlike how these things appear in the movies, being in a vegetative state doesn’t look peaceful–it’s looks sad and lonely and horrible. I missed her to so much and would visit her often in the nursing home and tell her about my day and so forth. When I couldn’t go I would write her notes and send them with my mother to read to her. Always on bird note cards–because she loved birds.

    One day the nursing home called to say we should come in quickly. She was awake and asking for us. My aunt and I rushed down to see here, and there she was, as if she hadn’t been sick at all. Lying in bed, talking to the nurses like nothing was wrong. She asked me for root beer and ice cream, and I rushed down to the cafeteria to get her just that. We spent the whole afternoon chatting about this and that just like old times.

    She awoke next morning in the sate state she had previously been in. Her doctor told us he’d seen this before and that sometimes it’s like a short circuit in the brain that brings them back to themselves for a while. I’m sure there is a much more scientific way of explaining this phenomenon but I was 14 when it all happened. Soon after she died. But I always look back on that afternoon we had together and it makes me tear up. It was almost 20 years ago and I still miss her deeply. But I will always treasure that gift of being able to talk to her that day.

    And you know what was so great about my grandmother? Nothing. She just loved me, and I knew it. I really knew it.

  4. One of my earliest and enduring memories is of sitting on Sundays in our kitchen’s breakfast nook with my Gran in a sadza (cornmeal) porridge eating contest – seeing who could finish first. My Gran was a formidable woman, a great traveller and quite independent for the times, so it’s an incongrous image I have of her at the table with her cap of curly white hair urging me on.

  5. This is wonderful. Thank you for introducing her to us. There is one thing missing that a Grandmother must never ever do. Spit on a tissue and wipe their grandchild’s face. I still cringe when I think my mother used to do that to me. :)

  6. Great post! I especially loved seeing the total difference between the article mother/daughter-in-law and you approach to viewing motherhood. It’s nice to know we’re succeeding a bit and creating an innovative approach to parenting, for as many times as we hit ourselves mentally and think “oh, my goodness, I just sounded exactly like my mother, which I swore I’d never do!”

    About Bubbies, mine is b’H one of my best friends. We talk about once a week for over an hour each time. She gives me advice, we trade recipes, she updates me on other family members and we shmooze about random current events. (She also calls to warn me when she hears about hurricane warnings in my area, but that’s another story.) When I came into town for one night, she made my all-time favourite dish for me for breakfast! And I accidentally bought the same air freshener she uses; every time I use it I feel like I’m back at a sleepover at Bubbi’s house. B”H, I was fortunate to grow up 2 blocks from her house and we really got to see each other all the time.

    Thanks for a great post!

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Penina. So nice that you were able to live so close to your Bubbi. I hope that by the time I have grandchildren, I will have some in the same town! So far we’re two generations that are far from grandparents. :(

  7. What an amazing post! I am going to have to introduce this blogger to a good friend of mine who is a bubby herself :)
    B”H we lived with my grandparents until 2009 when my mom got remarried and then soon after I got married. I think my fondest memories are of Erev Pesach, when all four of us women (my grandma, mom, sister and I) would be in the kitchen together getting ready. Each person had their own special task, their own special dish and we would just spend the day cooking and talking and singing. I loved watching my grandmother cook and it has really inspired me to love cooking and being in the kitchen. Except now that I have little ones at home I think it is the last place I want to be, how times have changed!

    1. Yes! Please do. :) I love the image of having three generations in the kitchen doing Pesach prep! And I know what you mean about kids and the kitchen and how things can change.

  8. I know what you mean about the blogs you follow changing over time. I was just thinking about this recently. Yours is one I’ve followed for some time. I may not always comment, but I am a faithful reader and fan of your blog!

  9. My grandma died over two years ago and I still find myself thinking “I should tell Grandma about that in my next letter…”

    I think we can learn a lot from people who are different from us – including those from previous generations – and I love hearing older people tell about their lives – and getting advice from them. I can always take it or leave it, but it is a special present they give to us.

    1. I also love hearing about the world before. It’s so easy to think that everything was always like this, but before we know it, we’ll be saying to our kids “I remember life before the internet. And cell phones.”

  10. My Bubba was one of a kind but her life cane with a lot of tzuris. She was a Holocaust survivor, had two sisters and two brothers that lived in Israel while she raised a family in America. Due to some family drama, she stopped speaking to her baby brother. The year before I moved to Israel, I was in the holy land vacationing. One of my uncles arranged a dinner with my grandmother’s brother. At dinner, I ambushed my Bubba on the phone. I told her someone wanted to speak to her, and I put her brother on the phone. When I returned to the US, she told me she was so mad at me but also really proud of me. From then on, she called her brother every Shabbat until she died. My great-uncle died around Thanksgiving and my newborn son is named for him. So, my favorite memory with my Bubba was the one where I reconnected her with her brother.

  11. I sooo agree with Miriam Hendeles about today’s young mothers being so accomplished and confident in their mothering. I am from her generation and I continue to marvel and write at the parenting skills, awareness of milestones, and the newest in health research that today’s young mothers have. Of course they are working very hard at it all-the jobs/careers, parenting, marriages and self nurturing. It’s the last thing that I think was most lacking in the message my generation got. We were not told to nurture ourselves so we could be better people, spouses, and parents. The message was kids first.
    Thank you MIriam and Rivki for two great sites and great thoughts expressed skillfully.

  12. Pingback: Staying in Touch |

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