The Other Side of the Story - Visitation Rites

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The Other Side of the Story - Giving People the Benefit of the Doubt

Comparing is unfair. Every person has his own way of doing things. Families have their own way of doing things, too. One family deems it proper to arrive at an event punctually; in another family, it's accepted to walk in "fashionably late." Your family remembers every birthday and anniversary; your spouse's family lets them slip by. It's only fair to compare people who are exactly alike, with the exact same abilities and circumstances. Of course, no such people exist. For instance, consider the case of the...

Visitation Rites

We live in Eretz Yisrael, and both my parents and my husband's parents live outside of Israel. My husband's parents visit at least once a year. When they come, they stay for at least a week, and they try to spend every possible minute with us and the kids. They rent an apartment nearby, and my mother-in-law comes over every morning to take the little kids to the park. They're back in the early afternoon so they can be there when the bigger kids come home from school. Or else they call and have the kids come to their apartment for the afternoon, or take them all out shopping, or to the zoo or whatever. And they love it when the kids sleep over at their place, which they do as often as we will allow. And of course, the entire Shabbos we spend together.

My parents visit, but less frequently; and never for more than four or five days. They insist on staying in a hotel downtown, 20 minutes away (if there's no traffic). They like their leisurely mornings, so they show up around noon and they want to take us all out for lunch. It seems that the whole time at the restaurant is spent in the Sisyphusian task of getting the little ones to sit still and be quiet, as is proper restaurant etiquette. Afterwards, my parents just want to go back to their hotel alone and relax. They might stop over later, after the kids are asleep. Instead of a restaurant, they may suggest we all go on some tour or take a drive to another city. Again, it's usually something difficult for the kids, especially the little ones. As for Shabbos, my parents stay in their hotel Friday night. We only see them when they walk over for the daytime meal, if it doesn't rain.

One day, my husband said to me, "Don't your parents like their grandchildren? They never really seem to want just to spend time together with them."

Perhaps the less doting parents are older or have weaker health, which causes them to tire more easily, or to have less stamina for spending time with company. Maybe they are by nature nervous people and don't have the patience to sit around the house and play with the children. Or perhaps there is a hidden issue weighing on their hearts which makes it hard for them to enjoy the simple things in life. Instead of comparing, looking askance at unfamiliar ways and mannerisms, try to understand that people are different.

The Other Side of the Story Archives

Based on "The Other Side of the Story" by Mrs. Yehudis Samet, ArtScroll Series

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