A visit from the parents is always an adventure. You never know if there will be a blowout fight, some passive aggressive verbal slights or just typical disdainful judgments about who you’re sleeping with or how you parent.
This weekend was a new adventure. Yes my son did humiliate me by telling my dad to stop annoying his mom. Truth be told my dad was doing nothing more than trying to push the cart in Target and pay for my groceries. I was being an ungrateful brat by getting annoyed by this instead of being thankful…but this is a topic for my therapist. I won’t trouble you with it, and yes I’m working on it.
The real adventure began at our dinner out without the kids. Real grownups talking about real issues in a nice restaurant – good start. The conversation turned to religion. Not necessarily taboo as we are all Jewish…no drama here. I grew up fairly religious; Temple every Saturday (3 hours, brutal). We were strictly kosher. (No, I’ve never eaten bacon or a McDonald’s hamburger…ever.) We didn’t go out on Shabbat, no Friday night dates. It was family time. My faith was taught and swallowed blindly. We didn’t really question it and when we did the answer was usually, “Because God said so.”
This didn’t sit well with me (because I’m a pain the butt), so as a teenager I sought my own answers, questioned my personal faith and found my own path. I had no idea the woman, who sent me to birthday parties with a Hebrew National hot dog wrapped in tin foil because the other kids’ house wasn’t kosher, was on her own quest for answers.
Wow, the things you learn at dinner. I mentioned to my parents I joined a study group, and my mom nonchalantly responded, “Yes, I studied with a Rabbi too.” Really? When? Where was I? And what have you done with my real mother? Apparently, 25 years ago, my mother was seeking answers to some of the same questions I have today. I was amazed and relieved. Her casual admission that she too had questions made it ok not to have blind faith, even in the things my parents taught us.
Those moments you realize your parents don’t have all the answers (even though they like to think they do) are humbling and scary. It’s also unifying. For the better part of 40 years, I’ve been striving for the approval of these people sitting across from me at dinner. But for a moment we were equals, all just trying to figure out life, all truth seekers. It was very cool.
My moment of equality faded quickly as it became clear mom still knows much more than I. (She did have a 25-year head start.) I’ll share a little of Mama Green’s wisdom. Our conversation about religion turned to my disdain that Judaism is patriarchal and sexist (please Rabbis, don’t send me hate mail. This is just my opinion).
Mom smiles and asks, “Do you know why the Fifth Commandment says: ‘Honor thy Father and thy Mother?’”
Me: “You’re proving my point. Father is first.”
Mom: “God knew children would always honor their mothers. We gave birth to them; we are already closer to God. So God put father first so children would be reminded to honor their fathers too. They would never forget to honor their mothers.”
I’d once again been schooled. In perfect mother fashion, she both educated me and comforted me. Well done, Mama Green.
My parents leave Tuesday. During this visit there was no blowout fight, or judgmental snickers about my parenting – only an elevation in the relationship between me and my parents.
That is not a commandment, it’s a blessing.