My parents used to take me to visit my grandparents. It seems that today children want their parents to come to their home to see the grandkids .Must I visit my son's home to see his children? Should they not visit me with their kids? I was recently told "you know where we live," as if it is my obligation to go to them to see the grandkids. What does Judaism say about this?
Jewish Law defines “honoring one’s parents” as follows. An adult child must provide food, clothing and transportation for parents if they are unable to provide those things for themselves. Though this would appear to be a very limited definition of “honoring one’s parents” the Talmud is filled with numerous examples of our rabbis doing much more than the basics. Apparently, beyond the letter of the law there is a more expansive spirit of the law in this area. It would appear from your question that you are pained by the fact that your children are not more in tune with the “spirit of the law” as your parents were.
Though it would be wonderful if your children were more considerate of you, the real losers in this situation are the grandchildren. They would benefit tremendously from having a grandparent in their lives, and will miss additional nurturing and enrichment without you. The reality, however, is that only through their parents are you able to connect with these grandchildren. I know many situations where grandparents have been excluded from the lives of their grandchildren because of friction between parent and grandparent. Therefore, I would urge you to take the regrettably small opening that your child has given you and make that trip for the sake of the grandchildren. As time goes on and as you nurture the relationship with your grandchildren, it probably will not be too long before those grandchildren start pestering their parents about visiting their Bubbie/and or Zaydee. There is an old Yiddish joke that says the reason grandparents and grandchildren have such a close bond is because they have a common enemy! Nevertheless, the world would be a much nicer place if the closeness between grandchild and grandparent grew through the closeness of the relationship between parent and child. May you have many wonderful family visits.
My parents used to take me to visit my grandparents. It seems that today children want their parents to come to their home to see the grandkids .Must i visit my sons home to see his children? Should they not visit me with their kids? I was recently told "you know where we live," as if it is my obligation to go to them to see the grandkids. What does Judaism say about this?
I am not aware of specific guideline regarding this question. However, the mitzvah of respecting one’s parents is certainly instructive here. In essence, the core of the ethical nature of your question has less to do with the issue of the grandchildren, per se, and more to do with the respect your children have for you as it relates to this issue. Without knowing the situation in more detail, I will not presume to stand in “judgment”. What I can say is that unless a parent is asking a child to do something that is unethical and/or against Jewish law, or that a parent’s request comes into direct conflict with the fulfilling of another mitzvah of equal importance (which few are), children should do whatever they can to honor their parents. I personally think that it is reasonable for a child to ask if his parents would like to come to them for visits as it is both expensive and sometimes difficult for a whole family to travel, especially out of town. At the same time, it is also reasonable for a grandparent to expect that sometimes their children visit with them with the grandchildren. The most important thing is that there is respectful communication and eventual agreement about what one each can expect from the other. The goal is strong, loving relationships that honor each other. Both parent and child have a responsibility to make sure that this goal is achieved. Usually honest open dialogue about what one’s needs and expectations are and the rationales for those expectations can help people reach satisfying and honorable conclusions.
I must say that I am not familiar with any Jewish tradition about where children ought to visit their parents and/or vice versa. Of course, one could argue that 'honoring father and mother' can be used to butress the argument either way. I tend to lean toward the children visiting the parents more than the other way around if I was forced to choose. However, there is an insightful midrash from Psalms Rabbah 92:13 (which is also found in Yalkut Psalms 846) that goes like this:
There is a story of a man who made out his will with the following provision: my son shall not inherit anything of mine until he acts the fool. R. Yose bar Judah and Rabbi went to R. Joshua ben Korcha to get an opinion about this strange provision. When they looked into his house from the outside, they saw him crawling on his hands and knees with a reed sticking out of his mouth and being pulled by a child. Seeing him thus, they withdrew but they came back later and asked him about the provision in the will. He began to laugh and said, "As you live, the business you ask about - acting the fool - happened to me a little while ago." Hence the expression, 'When a man looks on his children, his joy makes him act the fool.'
There is the literal meaning of this midrash but there is a deeper meaning, as well. You see, the will they inquired about stipulates that a man must 'act the fool' with his children. He must play with them and do things that, to outsiders, may seem foolish and silly. Good parents do this all the time. They hold their tongues. They play silly games. They find themselves in places that others would find frivolous. And the children remember the silliness of their parents, the joy they brought to their parents' faces and come to realize that the joy of children - and grandchildren - far outweighs the battle of wits about who should visit whom.
Take yourselves to your children. Let them see you. Have fun with them and their children. Give them a reason to visit you and to reach out to you. Better to be connected than not. Better to have a relationship with your children and grandchildren based on love and not a relationship based on pride. You need not be proud: Rabbi Joshua showed us that. Your own children may be selfish insisting that you visit them. That is their issue, not yours. Visit them as often as you can and live that love whenever possible. Getting there is only a car trip which is inconvenient. Losing your children and grandchildren is more than an inconvenience; it is a tragedy. Don't lose your family over silly pride.
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