Don’t Do Me Favors!

Q: As Pesach is over, I am looking back at the positive and negative times that my husband and I experienced over Yom Tov. All in all, I came away with the feeling that our children were “doing us a favor” by hosting us in their home — after we actually had to invite ourselves there for the first days.

I can give a number of reasons my daughter and her family did not want to come to us. They claim our block is “boring.” Very few young children live nearby, and those on our block are not overly friendly towards children they don’t know. I also think my daughter is embarrassed when her children fight in our home and believes she can better occupy them in the familiar environment of their own place.

I have spoken to a number of parents who experienced similar disappointments with their children. One of my friends had to spend thousands of dollars to go to Florida for Pesach (since her three children were renting a house there) in order not to spend Yom Tov alone. The home of another friend’s married child was too small to comfortably accommodate guests, and our friends did not want to impose on their grandchildren by having them sleep on couches for three nights. These grandparents went to a hotel rather than cause their family any discomfort. Another set of grandparents had their children going to the “other bubby and zeidy” for the Sedarim this year, and had to find other family members to join for the Sedarim.

This may seem trivial compared to more pressing parenting issues, but I feel that the issue needs to be addressed. Older parents are still parents. “V’higadeta l’vincha” doesn’t necessarily end when a child is married. Am I demanding too much? Is it right to expect some type of sensitivity and consideration towards parents when it comes to Yom Tov arrangements?

A: Clearly, your sentiments are experienced by many. Realistic expectations vary, depending on the relationship between parents and children and the openness of lines of communication.

Understandably, parents often don’t feel comfortable having to make requests and invite themselves to their married children’s homes. They also don’t want to stir up issues of shalom bayis by becoming a “Yom Tov project.”

On the other hand, grandparents have been coined “high-maintenance” and called “judgmental,” and not all daughters- and sons-in-law feel comfortable with their spouse’s family members. Parents are not aware of different family dynamics (nor will your children disclose this information to you). Some grandchildren may complain endlessly when spending days at a grandparent’s home, and not every parent has nerves of steel to withstand this.

On the other hand, if your children are not aware of the unsettled situation in which you find yourself before Pesach, a direct, pleasant approach is most advisable. Open lines of communication focus on solution-oriented ideas, rather than blaming children or evoking self-pity (e.g., “your neglected parents…”). Creative solutions can be devised if there is communication without resentment.

It is true that we live in an “I” generation, and making children “comfortable” gets too much emphasis. However, we will not change this present-day reality by bemoaning it. Grown children who want to go to Florida will still go. If we try to send our kids on a great guilt trip instead, we may end up at home with a group of very resentful grandchildren. What have we then achieved?

Of course, creating a generation of overly-indulged children is not a minor issue, but neither is it the focus of this article.