Moderated by Rachel Stein
In our last dilemma, Rick and Debby were eagerly preparing to spend Passover with their children as they have done for many years. In the midst of packing, their son, David, called to inform Debby that there had been a change in their usual accommodations.
“You can either stay in a hotel or in a neighbor’s guest room,” David explained in a matter-of-fact way. “The newlyweds need the basement suite.”
Wounded, Debby no longer felt welcome and wondered whether they shouldn’t go.
Dear Debby and Rick,
Your feelings make so much sense in this situation! For years you have stayed under the same roof together with your children and grandchildren, making the most of holiday time to enjoy a special bonding experience.
Suddenly, without warning, your newlywed expectant grandchildren’s needs are prioritized before yours. Bristling, you are left feeling cast aside and secondary to the new generation.
Often a situation is so much more palatable when couched in the proper phraseology. If your son had approached you in the following loving way, rather than simply stating the facts, I am sure you would have felt more cared about.
Imagine this interaction: “Mom, we always love when you and Daddy join us for Passover. Everyone is already counting down until we see you; it’s the highlight of our holiday. But I have a dilemma that I wanted to run by you. Since Rachel is expecting soon, it’s hard for her to do much walking. As much as we love having you in the house with us, would you mind if they stay in the basement this time? I want you to be comfortable, so I thought I would ask for your preference of using a neighbor’s guest room or a hotel. Would either of those options work for you?”
Perhaps you still would have felt somewhat uncomfortable because you looked forward to being in the house together with everyone. But I imagine you would have understood the situation and gently told David: “I understand. The last trimester can be difficult; it’s no problem. Let me talk to Daddy and get back to you.”
Your feelings of displacement and not being cared about would not be your predominant reaction. Surely, you, a loving grandmother, would want the best for your married grandchildren.
Remaining at home for Passover would cause so much pain and distress. Spending time together during this holiday has been a family tradition for you for years; your absence would cause great angst and probably create a rift dividing you, your children and your grandchildren. Nothing is worth that outcome.
If I were you, I would take a step back and realize that no one is trying to displace, dishonor or hurt you. Your children are simply trying to navigate the needs of their expanding family while doing their best to accommodate everyone.
I hope you enjoyed a healthy, happy Passover together with your family!
Would you like to know the conclusion of our story? I’m Debby, the one who wrote in with the dilemma. As I lift the curtain on the final scene in this scenario, you will see that G-d really does have a sense of humor.
Rick and I opted to stay at the neighbor’s house around the block, and they gave us a lovely little room with its own private entrance. Our children’s home was rowdy and bustling, “really happening,” as they say in today’s modern lingo. Many of our grandchildren had friends coming and going, and the noise level was high.
To my surprise, I enjoyed having a little getaway where I could open a book and enjoy some solitude, some one-on-one time with Rick, and some private time and space away from all the commotion.
Funny how the tables turned, isn’t it? So here’s my advice to any of you facing a similar predicament: Next time a situation seems dark and one-sided, take a step back and examine it carefully from all angles. There may just be a secret gift waiting to be opened and savored.
Looking back, this Passover was probably my best one, chock-full of nachas and meaningful memories. After all, what could be better than having the whole family together?
Wishing all of you the best,
Shared Spirit is a column in which people write in to share personal dilemmas. Readers are encouraged to assist by offering meaningful advice.