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Goodnight, Bubby

Mali Heller

In some frum circles, it’s common practice for teenage granddaughters to take turns sleeping at their elderly Bubby’s house. But how do you decide which girl?

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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STRONG BONDS When the situation allows for it, nothing compares to family support for an elderly grandparent who lives alone. And the grandchildren also gain from the arrangement: They strengthen their place in the family unit, acquire caregiving skills, and develop the ability to deal with difficult situations. There are, however, some ground rules to make sure the arrangement is a good fit

“Hi Bubby! It’s so nice to see you!” A burst of life fills the house, dispelling the loneliness that had begun to creep in. “My teacher said something that reminded me of our conversation last night — I have to tell you about it. Oh, I also brought pictures of little Dovi. Can you believe he’s already walking?!”

When the situation allows for it, nothing compares to family support for an elderly grandparent who lives alone. And the grandchildren also gain from the arrangement: They strengthen their place in the family unit, acquire caregiving skills, and develop the ability to deal with difficult situations. Above and beyond, the quality time grandmother and granddaughter spend together can lead to a powerful bond.

There are, however, some ground rules to make sure the arrangement is a good fit — for both the grandparent and grandchild. Join us for a roundtable discussion with three women — Rena Zenro (an educational consultant), Orli Cohen (a social worker in the Department of Social Services in Rechasim, Israel) and Gitta Katzberg (who used to sleep at her grandmother on a rotational basis and is currently the daughter of an elderly mother who regularly sends her daughters to help out).

The right girl for the job

How do you determine which granddaughter should be sent to sleep at Bubby? Orli Cohen:

“You need maternal judgment here. Each mother knows her daughters’ personalities. Not every teenager is capable of stepping into the role of caregiver. The energetic and impatient girl, for example, won’t be suitable for an extended stay filled with slow tasks with her grandmother.

“It’s also worthwhile to consider the nature of the relationship between the chosen girl and her grandmother. A girl with a close relationship should come first — it usually means Bubby will get more emotional support than if she’s with a granddaughter she isn’t strongly connected to.” 

Gitta Katzberg:

“You have to consider the specific needs of the grandmother, too. Some, like my Bubby, love company — whenever I brought friends over to my Bubby’s house, she would spoil us and happily chat with us. But not all grandmothers can do that. There are those who can’t tolerate noise, and others demand lights off at an early hour.

“If there are a lot of restrictions, it can be hard for a teenager. My friend’s daughter, for instance, was very disgruntled when she slept by her bubby, who claimed that going to sleep at 10 p.m. is essential. Her friends weren’t allowed to call after lights-out, she didn’t have enough time to study for tests, and she would toss and turn for hours until she’d fall asleep. The relationship was very tense until the mother — the daughter of the grandmother — relieved the granddaughter by taking over the shift from 10 p.m. on.

 

“In some families, the question of ‘Which girl is best?’ is never asked — for instance, in our family, all the high-school-aged granddaughters participated in a rotation of sleeping at my bubby. 

Each one slept there every night for a week, and after that a different granddaughter took over. Unless, of course, the granddaughter was busy with work or shidduchim.” 

Rena Zenro:
“From a different angle, it’s sometimes good to specifically choose the daughter who doesn’t do as well at home — the one who always causes friction. From experience, I’ve seen that a grandmother’s unconditional love has the ability to turn a granddaughter’s bitterness into kindness. The disturbing factors are neutralized in the grandmother’s house: her place in the family, the daily race, and other stresses are more distant, and the granddaughter will gain from giving.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 566)

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