My niece and nephew (twins) recently had their B’Nai Mitzvah. But when you plan this type of event, you must do it way in advance because kids are required to have prepared Torah passages, and most people I know do not speak conversational Hebrew. So we, the family and friends, have known the date for years.
So, my mother in law and father in law have been talking about this for years.
Every conversation with them would start with “Can’t wait for the mitzvah.” The middle of every conversation would include something about the mitzvah. And every conversation would end with “Don’t forget the mitzvah will be here soon.” And I get the grandparent thing. They’re excited to share the religion with the offspring of their offspring (my daughter is not being raised to follow either Catholicism or Judaism- so the had no such joy from our household) Yet, it is also a case of having absolutely nothing else going on in their lives. Nothing. They have no hobbies. They have few friends. They have absolutely nothing to look forward to.
So here’s lesson number one: make sure you have at least one hobby that you enjoy. When faced with the questions, “Why do I need to get out of bed today?” make sure it’s because you have something you can’t wait to do. And it could literally be anything. Set a goal to “walk” to China by counting your steps every day. Watch every Cary Grant movie ever made. Volunteer anyplace. You’re getting the idea: hobbies don’t have to cost a lot of money.
As of now, my in laws hobbies are: annoying my husband, annoying my sister in law, complaining about my husband and sister in law, complaining about their friends/neighbors, complaining about other relations and complaining about me. They clearly need to find something else to do until the date is set for the Bar Mitzvah of my other nephew.
Now, let’s get to the next part of the issue: What happens when you talk about something for two years, when you look forward to something at the exclusion of everything else? What happens when you build up something to epic proportions?
We had to go to Temple services the evening before. my Mother in Law fell asleep during the Rabbi’s talk. And not just a little doze: she tilted totally to the side, and if the benches did not have little separators, she would have fallen to the left. Did I mention she snorts when she sleeps?
When we got to Temple the next morning, the first thing my Sister in Law said to us was ‘Please go sit with Dad cause he’s in a snit.” When we sat in row with him, he started complaining that my Mother in Law got seated in the row in front of him at Temple. he complained that he had been at Temple for an hour, and he was only in two of the pre event pictures.
At the breakfast that is served immediately after a Mitzvah (I don’t remember what it’s called) my family and I had to run to opposite sides of the room to talk to in laws, because they would not sit at tables adjacent to one another. We called it bagel on the run…
Then, there is the reception. If you are my Mother in Law, you spend the cocktail hour in the lackluster outer room, when everyone else is in the bar room with the food and the great view. You decide to find something wrong with every college her granddaughter (mu daughter) is applying to. Her professionally made up face does not crack a smile.
The dinner portion saw my FIL and MIL sit at their tables, stone faced. They barely danced. They barely got up from the table. They didn’t smile, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t talk to anyone. The event that they had spoken so highly of for years was playing in a loop right before their eyes, and they didn’t care.
My MIL was annoyed because my niece and nephew weren’t paying any attention to her. Gee: you mean at a party with at least 50 of their friends, they weren’t sitting in the back of the room with my MIL? Shocking I say.
FIL was annoyed that he wasn’t being revered as an elder statesman. In his mind, the crowd would part as he walked the room, kissing his ring and asking for his sage advice and blessing. It’s a party with DJ’s and spinning lights and too much food. And it wasn’t his event. My niece and nephew, and their parents were the stars of the day. As they should be.
The problem was, they had an idea in their minds as to how this would play out. And the actual event did not match their expectations. Their vision of the event was not realistic: they set themselves up to fail.
So, what’s the take away?
- Get a hobby
- Realize it’s great to look forward to something. Looking forward to something actually makes you happy. But, be realistic as to your expectations.
- Don’t expect other people to act the way you want them to act. You can only control your own actions, not the actions of others.
- Don’t drive your children, their partners, and your grandchildren crazy. It’s not a good look.