“What should I do with all of the term papers your grandchildren sent you when they were in college and high school?” my adult son, Michael, had asked, as he cleaned out my condo for sale in Deerfield, IL. “Send them to me,” I had answered.
In my effort to enter my grandchildren’s worlds at school—I had asked them each to send me all their papers. I wanted to know what they were learning, so that I could talk to them about the things they were focused on in their lives.
But once the boxes of papers arrived at my new home, my daughter Ellen’s house in LA, she had a great idea. “Why add another storage box to the garage?” she reasoned. “Why not send them back to each grandchild?” And so I did.
Shortly thereafter, my grandson Ethan called. The oldest of my 6 grandchildren, Ethan, now in his 30’s, is an ordained rabbi and parent, with wife Erin, to my two great-grandchildren. He was so grateful, as he did not have electronic versions of all his work. I had everything. He also commented about how impressed he was re-reading his teachers’ comments, that they took the time to write, highlighting both the good stuff and the limitations. “I enjoyed reading them,” he confided.
That got me thinking about what it means to look at things through an editor’s eye. It was not lost on me the parallel to this time of year for Jews around the globe—as we are asked to reflect on our lives, and in particular our behavior over the past year.
If God was the Teacher and this was our assignment, it would be to review the year and note in the margins, things we’re proud of and areas to target for growth. So I set about to write the outline for this important term paper.
Here were the areas that surfaced for me, with questions for you to think about as well. Over the past year,
How did you unleash your creativity?
For me, I unleashed my creativity by bringing my full self to my family, and also in my work with Deanna. Together we finished writing a book that will help grandparents around the globe deepen their relationships with their teenage grandchildren (Coming June 2022!). My commitment to be better in the coming year is that I will act in a way that allows all whose life I touch to also feel free to be themselves and contribute to the world. As I share fully of myself, I invite others to do the same.
How did you deepen your relationships with your adult children?
This past year was a time of growth and transition for me and my adult children. And I won’t lie. It was hard. I went from being “dad in charge” to relying on my children for so much—Michael packing and selling my condo, now living with Ellen. I imagine for them, I haven’t been “dad in charge” in a long time. Michael himself is already a grandfather twice over! But something about the move, perhaps a certain loss of independence, made it all more real.
The caring from my daughter and son-in-law is amazingly wonderful. “Was I a good father?” I asked her in my early weeks after arrival. “Why ask now?” she responded. “I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made when I was young. This is such a gift to have a chance to be even closer to my children this late in life.” Editor’s note…It’s time for me to let go of being in charge
How did you stay in touch and maintain your relationship with your grandchildren?
I’m 93. At this age, I think I’ll never live long enough to spend all that I saved for retirement for Margaret and me, since Margaret passed so long ago. When my grandchildren reached Bar/Bat Mitzvah age, I gave them each four jars. one labeled Charity, one for Saving, one for Spending, and one for Investing. Then I sent them $20 a month for a year and let them decide how they would divide it.
I decided to do the adult version of that. They range from ages 19 to mid-30’s now. So I gave them each a sum of money to use as they needed. I hope this will give us an opportunity to talk about what is going on in their lives, what they’ll buy, their futures—real “adult,” intergenerational discussions.
That’s Where Two Worlds Meet (). I can share how my life has shifted over the past year; they can share their dreams for the future.
This has been so meaningful to me, that I plan to share the idea with my “Guys Group,” five friends from Deerfield. We’ve met every Friday for years while we all lived together in Coromandel. We’ve continued the tradition virtually under the pandemic and since my move.
I wonder—will they groan at the weight of a homework assignment, even from the most magnificent of teachers? Or will they relish the opportunity to reflect, learn and continue to grow as long as they are here? I hope, like me, it’s the latter.