Tiptoeing through a Minefield: Raising my Challenging Grandson by Anonymous
Rabbi Aryeh Nivin’s Personal Development Chaburas were named one of the six most ambitious spiritual initiatives by Family First magazine. Two new chabura groups for women are starting this Elul. Click here to find out more about joining the $1 no-commitment Elul program for women. Every JewishMOM.com reader who signs up for the $1 Elul session will automatically enter the raffle to win a free 12-week course registration (worth $150). This means that you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by trying this out.
In the following article, a Rabbi Nivin Chabura participant explains how Rabbi Nivin’s modules have helped her navigate the past year raising a challenging grandson.
Though my own children are all grown and out of the house, I now find myself raising a teenager – my grandson.
We knew my son’s divorce was coming on for quite some time – there was about a five year deterioration period which was terribly hard to watch, and of course even harder for my son and his children. The kids were bounced around from school to school, my son was struggling as a single father and we knew he needed help. This son is my middle child and our relationship was never the best, which made the decision about whether we could take my oldest grandson to live with us more complicated. I knew I needed objective assistance in making this decision and I turned to my teacher, Rabbi Aryeh Nivin, and a rebbetzin in my community to help guide me. Initially they both strongly advised against bringing my grandson to live with us – they sensed that I was not going to be able to do it for the right reasons, which of course could do more harm than good.
Then, exactly a year ago – last Tisha b’Av – I heard a class that gave me a complete paradigm shift. It seems so obvious now, but until then I somehow thought that I needed to have the ability to raise him, which I felt I didn’t have. But this class opened my eyes to the fact that I was not alone and that with Hashem’s help we would be able to raise him.
In that moment I realized why bringing my grandson to us was the only course of action we could and should take and my husband and I embarked on the journey of raising a teenager, for the second time around.
Raising teens is not easy in the best of situations, all the more so for a teen who has had his world turned upside down by divorce. Needless to say, my grandson has anger issues as one might expect and has no interest in religion at this stage. I made a conscious decision when we brought him into our home that I would never discuss religion with him. I wouldn’t make it into an issue. I wanted interest in religious to be something that came from him, and not something he felt forced into.
8 years ago, before I joined Rabbi Nivin’s Personal Development Chabura, I would not have had the tools to make such a decision! Through my participation in the Chaburas (I’ve been at it since 2007) and my work with my learning partner – whom I’ve never met, but has become my best friend and provides me with so much support – I’ve internalized the tools Rabbi Nivin gives over to us in so many of his modules.
Rabbi Nivin has taught me what it means to really be patient and let go of control.
Rabbi Nivin has taught me how not to have expectations of what “should” be, but rather to accept what is.
Most importantly, Rabbi Nivin has taught me how to see each person as a person – as a soul – and not just as the sum of their negative qualities.
It is these tools that have helped me get through this first year with my grandson.
Initially I contacted a parenting coach, figuring I would need all the guidance I could get and would like to have someone I could call for advice on a regular basis. Early on, we encountered a situation that had the potential to flare up into something much bigger, but by using the tools I learned from Rabbi Nivin, I was able to wait it out, not react in the moment and wait for a quieter, calmer moment later on to discuss what had happened with my grandson.
I started that conversation with him by saying, “I love you so much that…” and continued to calmly express my perspective on what had happened. And he heard me! He totally got it, we were able to have a calm and loving discussion.
Hashem helped me take a potential minefield and turn it into a growth experience, for both myself and my grandson.
Afterwards I contacted the parenting coach to get her opinion and see if she had any good advice for me to move forward from there and the first thing she asked me was, “How did you know to do that??” So, of course, I told her about Rabbi Nivin and the chaburas!
I cannot thank Rabbi Nivin enough for all I have gained that has enabled me to (re)create this relationship with my grandson, to make our home a place where he feels safe and accepted, where he is open and honest with me, speaking to me about many things that most teens probably don’t discuss with their parents, let alone grandparents.
Recently I was going to take him to a teen-anon meeting after school, but when he came home he asked me if I minded if he doesn’t go. “Of course I don’t mind – I just thought you might want to go, to have a chance to speak to people who understand, you don’t really have anyone to talk to,” I said. He responded, “But I have you, Grandma!”
This upcoming year I hope we’ll be raising the bar together, my grandson and I, using yet another tool I’ve learned from Rabbi Nivin on making criteria – setting achievable goals and using practical, measurable results to get there.
Rabbi Nivin has really become part of our family – my husband, my kids, my grandkids all know “Rabbi Nivinisms” and we’ve all gained and grown as a result.
I don’t mean to say things are perfect – we’re only human and we still have our ups and downs – but thanks to Rabbi Nivin I know I have the tools to weather the downs so I can continue to try moving back up, IY”H.