Grandparents & Grandchildren
What are the hopes, the dreams, the wishes that Jewish grandparents have of their grandchildren? Grandchildren are an extension of themselves, they are reminders of their mothers, of their fathers and most of all they are their future! Grandparents want to see them, to hug them, to give to them, to nurture them and to be loved and adored by them. These offspring are a very important part of their lives. Grandparents are delighted when they hear from them, when these little and later grown humans share their accomplishments, their failures, their lives with them, when they are the trusted adults who are worthy of keeping a cherished “secret or two”, when they can spoil them and when they feel mutually cherished with their heart, their soul and their strength “Bechol levovko, bechol nafschecho, bechol meodecho.”
At times when angry with their thoughtless children, grandparents wish they “had produced their grandchildren first”.
From the moment of inception the Jewish grandma looks out for the welfare of her daughter (or daughter-in-law, if possible). She shares the joy, the expectation and even the occasional pain (indirectly of course). She assists in whatever is appropriate and awaits the great event. She accompanies her daughter and buys the essentials, if she is somehow able: The perambulator, the crib, some baby clothes and whatever she can. She may deprive herself a little, or a lot, but the joy that comes from seeing and giving what she herself did not have when she was very poor and her children were born, give her the “Naches” (pleasure) that is not for sale. When the big day comes she is joyful when she is invited to accompany her daughter to the hospital and to await the baby’s arrival along with her son-in-law.
She is never too tired to take care of the little one, not only to give the parents some respite but to have the opportunity to bond with that adorable little humanoid. This bonding continues throughout the growth of each child and is especially strong with the oldest of the grandchildren. Their success makes her beam and she is happy for every step of the youngster's growing years. If permitted she will help them with suggestions, asked for advice, or unasked for advice; both grandma and grandpa will share their wisdom and both grandparents look forward to sharing their vacation or other amenities with their “bonuses”. These tertiary parents enjoy sharing the “children's” plans and dreams. They stand ready to help with whatever they are able. They are known to support in many ways, sometimes foregoing their personal needs to enable their cherubs to enhance and have a better life than was their fate.
What hurts these same grandparents: When rightly or wrongly they feel excluded; when they cannot give as much as is expected of them; when they are criticized for a mannerism from these children who do not respect them; when they are ignored. (There is the story of the widow who scrubbed floors in addition to holding a low paying job in order to raise her child and to enable him to become a physician. The end of the story is that her son asked her not to come to his medical school graduation since she looked too dowdy, did not have elegant clothes to wear and he felt she was an embarrassment to him).
As adult grandchildren they must remember to refrain from criticisms of these, their roots, their grandparents, to remember good times together, to call, to include, to appreciate, to love. These are the people of whose fabric they are created, they are very special human beings who find these their grandchildren to be extraordinary people no matter what their course in life will be.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).