Modifying Our Expectations

In reference to Positive Parenting, “It’s Beginning to Feel Like a Burden” (October 23, page 16), I usually appreciate the columnist’s perspective but I think she missed something this time.

I understand that situations can be complicated, but when we allow ourselves to not be considered and to be (mis)treated like a shmatte, nobody benefits.

Sometimes people (children and grandchildren) need to be taught concern and consideration.

How do we do this?

We share our genuine emotions and then brainstorm how to make the situation pleasurable for everyone.

Perhaps prepare a chart of the meals where everyone capable checks off two meals that they will help with.

I’m sure the hostess or someone else would be happy to enjoy a toddler for a few minutes while his/her mother is in charge of serving one of the meals.

When we honor our limitations, we give our family the opportunity to develop good middos and, maybe just as important, we teach by example how to be genuine and take care of ourselves.

SD from Beit Shemesh

P.S. They also have the opportunity to do kibbud av va’eim — serving food to one’s parents.

Shira Frank responds:

Dear SD,

Thank you for your comments about the Positive Parenting column.

If you look at the actual content of the parent’s question, the writer mentions that she has “tried charts with the grandchildren, but they are short-lived.” In terms of “brainstorming,” as you mentioned, she writes that she has been “initiating advance discussions about issues that might possibly occur,” but to no avail.

However, disappointing as it is, most adult children don’t want to come home to their parents to be “taught concern and consideration.” Many adult children feel that their parents have given them enough mussar their whole life, and this approach can just make family visits less frequent. Thus, by behaving in this manner, we may not accomplish our desired goal. For the adult children who do respond well to “teaching by example” — their parents do not have the need to send questions to this column.

It is very true that if “we allow ourselves to not be considered and to be (mis)treated like a shmatte, nobody benefits.” It also true that we need to “honor our limitations” and “be genuine and take care of ourselves.” This is why the last lines of the column suggest just that: “Unfortunately, we cannot modify the behavior of others, especially when they are adults; rather, we need to see if we can modify our own expectations. If not, these same family members (you and your spouse included) can relocate to another sukkah and continue the family tradition in another location.”

L’chatchilah, what you suggest is praiseworthy. However, we often live in situations that are more b’di’eved.