My husband and I are doing something that we never thought we would do. We are going to our son and his wife for the upcoming yomim tovim. First of all, we are only in our 50s and perfectly capable of still hosting the family. Second of all, our daughter-in-law is not quite domestic, and we are concerned that the food will not be up to par. (We have past experience with this). And third, our son has adopted various minhagim along the way and my husband gets pretty insulted that he doesn’t follow what he grew up with. I think we are in need of some survival tips.
-Hungry and Offended
Dear Hungry and Offended,
Wrong attitude, parents! You want to have a miserable time? You are almost there.
You want to actually enjoy yourselves and come away with some nice memories? Well then, we need to revamp your style. Since we are fresh in the Days of Judgment, and I need all the brownie points I can get, I will be easy on you and set up your safety net.
Pack yourselves some goodies to keep with you in the guest room. This will make that charred challah at the seuda slightly more palatable as you down half a bottle of seltzer to jump start your esophagus’s periostalsis process. Just thinking about your cinnamon rugalach hiding in your travel tote will activate your salivary glands to get those enzymes working on breaking up the Peanut-Butter Soy Sauce Steak with Strawberry Jam Disaster.
Offer to bring some food for the meals. This must be done with the utmost sensitivity, couched in the form of, “Wow, you have so much to do. Is there anything I can bring to lighten your load?”
Now, as you had better know by now, anything you say to your daughter-in-law will be reinterpreted myriad times until she can actually find something offensive in your syntax. So don’t even bother with this one if you have ever let on that you are not into her cooking. It’s just not worth it. And don’t even think of stating it like, “Should I bring Dani’s favorite chicken that he always asks me to make?”
It will cause an intense neurological storm within your daughter-in-law’s sympathetic nervous system which will bring out her most catty, territorial side. Which, in turn, will remind Dani why he fell in love with her in the first place.
Smile as you grit your teeth. I’m sure it must be very difficult to have your minhagim altered in front of you. Unfortunately, there is nothing really to do about it as it happens. This doesn’t mean that you should not address it. Your husband should mention something about it way after you’ve returned home and showered on the compliments of what an amazing job they had done making yuntif so beautiful. Your husband should speak in a non-emotional way when bringing it up because this topic is a petri dish straight out of a powder keg once it gets emotional.
He should take the stance of a curious observer while expressing that it is a little hurtful to have his minhagim abandoned. He may not like the answer, and things in this realm will likely be sticky for a few years, but at least it should be openly addressed. Do not bring this up with your son if you are speaking on behalf of your hubby. You will be robbing both of them of actual emotional closeness when intervening.
And to address your initial discomfort of being too young to be catered to: Call a few of your close friends who are hosting half of New Jersey on Erev Yuntif. Hear their stress. Most experienced chefs like you never look back as they toss the “Closed for the Holidays” sign up on their own kitchen door.
Aviva Rizel is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice that can be reached at 347-292-8482 or AvivaRizel.MFT@gmail.com.