I love having my children for Shabbos. I really do. The grandchildren are so adorable, and I have such nachas watching my babies raising their own. All week long it’s just Zaidy and me; it’s so quiet, and I miss the noise and balagan.
After Shabbos, when the boys’ peyos are perfectly curled, faces washed and the babies fed and diapered, I (finally) walk to the bus stop, and although I gaily wave goodbye as the bus pulls away, I feel a tug of sadness at their leaving. Then I return home, prepare a mug of hot tea, and savor the quiet.
When my husband walks into the living room half an hour later, I’m still sitting on the sofa, staring into nothingness. “Whew,” I say. “That was some Shabbos. I’m exhausted.” The truth is, there’s really no reason for me to be so tired. I had a long Shabbos nap, and the grandchildren helped me serve and clear the table.
But I’m no longer used to the noise. And the balagan.
It’s such a paradox. I love spending time with my family. It’s really my greatest joy in life. But at the same time, it leaves me drained and exhausted. And watching how beautifully my children manage with their growing families, I wonder how they do it.
I think one of the most difficult challenges facing both parents and their adult children is to accept that things aren’t the way they used to be. I can’t imagine how I ever spent my days wiping sticky chairs, putting away mountains of toys, preparing massive pots of food, and (sigh) throwing away half-eaten sandwiches and barely touched plates of that delicious soup that cost me so much time and energy (let alone money) to prepare. Today, those enormous pots, once used on a daily basis, are regulated to the far end of the closet to be pulled out for special occasions, and instead of buying fruits and vegetables by the carton, I purchase individual units, carefully perusing each tomato and cucumber for flaws.
Time marches on.
Having an empty nest means just that – the nest is empty. On a daily basis, it’s just me and my husband living in a small two-bedroom apartment. I make two pieces of chicken for lunch; after all, there’s no need for a third.
But my kids remember a mother cooking in bulk, who didn’t bat an eyelash at unexpected company. After all, there’s no real difference if you cook for twelve or fifteen, but now that it’s just the two of us, adding another three portions is a real game changer. I don’t keep a lot of extra food in the house (especially the goodies — I’m afraid that you-know-who will eat them in the middle of the night), so if company’s coming for Shabbos, or any other time of the week, for that matter, it means an additional foray to the grocery store.
According to my editors, this column is dedicated to the needs of the more “mature” woman, but I would imagine that there are some younger women reading this as well (and if there aren’t, may I suggest that any older women reading this causally leave her copy of the Binah on the coffee table, open to this page). So, for the sake of promoting peace and understanding between the generations, I hereby would like to make a few suggestions (in other words, lay down the law) to the younger crowd.
Remember, your shvigger did not tell you this, so continue to adore her, and hopefully she’ll reciprocate in kind, especially after you’ve learned the following rules:
1. If you want to come for Shabbos, please let me know before Wednesday morning. That’s when I do my shopping; before the pre-Shabbos rush, when the stores are still fairly empty. Of course if there’s a real emergency, you’re always welcome, but please, for your sake and mine, try to avoid emergencies!
2. If you’re bringing something, let me know beforehand. I love eggplant salad, but four different types is a bit much! Had I known, I would have made something else instead, or even better, not made a salad at all!
3. Let me know if anyone in your family has special dietary requirements. Bli ayin hara, there are a lot of grandchildren, and I can’t keep track of everyone’s allergies or personal quirks. So please remind me that Shmuelik can’t eat (or refuses to eat) challah sprinkled with sesame seeds, and that Channie can only drink boiled water.
4. Take care of your children! I love children, especially my grandchildren. I really do. But I also need my Shabbos nap, and (I know this might sound crazy, but it’s the truth) throwing balls in the living room (especially when my good china is out) tends to make me nervous.
5. I love it when, right after Shabbos is over, I take the grandchildren to the park and you surprise me by cleaning up the house! No, this is not a rule, but if you do this, you’ll get brownie points for good behavior.
6. Last but not least, please remember to go home! I love it when you come, and I love it when you go.