ruthie blum 88.
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Kids, the women agree, are like the Palestinians. The more money and peace offerings you give them, the more they resent and actively oppose you. Appeasement, they conclude, is the cause of all their troubles.
"It's our own fault," Chana says, in a manner more characteristic of accusation than self-awareness. The others pay no real mind to her testy tone, however, chalking her moody behavior up to her quitting smoking - an undertaking that has made her almost as intolerable to be around as the teenagers about whom they have convened to commiserate.
"It's about time we start making serious demands on them," Pnina asserts with an air of confidence she wishes she could exude when it counted. Around her 16-year-old son, for example. "They're certainly old enough."
"Too late," Ronit says, shrugging. "We should have thought of that years ago, when we still had a fighting chance to mold them."
"Yeah," Na'ama sighs. "But who had the patience to wait for them to collect the Lego pieces and Barbie clothes, when all we could think of was getting them to bed as fast as we could?"
"Personally, I'm sick of all the over-analyzing," Chana announces. "The past is the past, and I'm no longer the least bit interested in whether we did or did not adhere to some Adlerian approach."
"Still," Pnina says, this time hesitantly, so as not to arouse Chana's wrath. "They are our children, and we want to do what's best - and healthiest - for their development as people."
"Oh, cut the crap already," Chana practically spits, causing Pnina to flinch - the way she does when her son slams the door in her face. "We have to stop focusing on their well-being, and start concentrating on our own."
"There's certainly something to be said for that," Na'ama says, smiling, delighting in being given legitimacy for a policy she practices but dares not voice. "I mean, after all, we're the bread-winners - and the elders."
"Isn't that precisely why it is our responsibility to make things right in our families?" Ronit suggests, quoting her husband, though not admitting it, even to herself. Normally, she gets livid when he says this, interpreting it as blame for the kids' reprehensible lack of respect or appreciation.
"It sure is," Chana says, huffily. "And the way to do that is to cut off all funding and sever all communication."
"Have no ties with our children?" Ronit asks, thinking Chana must be losing her marbles.
"Not until they start treating us differently," Chana says matter-of-factly. "And earning our goodwill for a change."
Pnina shifts in her seat, not sure which position she holds, let alone whether she's able to act on any of them. She really can't stand confrontation. Nor can she bear being seen in a bad light.
"Wouldn't that create a really negative atmosphere?" she asks, wishing she didn't care; knowing with every fiber of her being that nothing short of a lobotomy could ever make her wish come true.
AT THIS, they all burst out laughing, even Chana. It is the already way-beyond-negative atmosphere in each of their households that has brought about this particular kvetching session - as well as its many precursors over the years - in the first place. In fact, now that they think about it, they owe their fast friendships to the very children whose rule of their roosts is at the root of their shared sorry state.
"Let's face it," Ronit says. "There is nothing more powerful than a weak, helpless, dependent creature."
Na'ama nods, knowing exactly what Ronit is referring to. She remembers the day she brought her first-born home from the hospital: how he took up all the oxygen; how he dictated all conditions; how his every whimper was like a roar of judgement and critique.
"Yet they crave independence," Pnina points out. "Which is as it should be."
"Oh baloney," Chana dismisses, cringing at the mention of a craving, since she's having a strong one right now. "It's not independence they're after. It's our credit cards - and our keys to the car. Not to mention free board, with kitchen and laundry services thrown in for good measure."
"But isn't that part of growing up and coming into their own?" Pnina broaches delicately, afraid of further angering her cigarette-starved compatriot.
"Just the opposite," Ronit answers before Chana has the opportunity to add insult to injury. "The proof is in the pudding."
"Whatever do you mean by that?" Chana asks, irritably, not bothering to consider that Ronit's comment might actually bolster her own claims.
"What I mean," Ronit snaps, sick of being sympathetic to Chana's withdrawal symptoms, "is that independence, by definition, both constitutes and requires the taking of responsibility for one's life and plight - which is exactly what our kids are avoiding like the plague."
"Again, whose fault is that, do you suppose?" Chana charges.
"Why is everything always our fault?" Pnina wails, albeit quietly. The way she does when in the presence of her children.
Fearing their little round-table discussion is headed toward melt-down and break-up, Na'ama steps in - as she does whenever she senses her kids are on the verge of civil war - to mediate. Her efforts, she hopes, will prove somewhat less fruitless in this case than they do in the other.
"Whatever it is we're whining about now, we'll all be sorry when our nests are empty," she says, in an attempt to give equal weight - and credence - to all sides.
"Not I," Chana protests. "I'm not like my mother."
"Nor I," Ronit professes, realizing how much it reflects her own mother's sentiment.
"I'm pretty sure I'll look back on this period with nostalgia," Na'ama upholds, making a mental note to phone her mother and ask how she handled it when the last of the flock flew the coop. She's not entirely certain, though, that she wants an honest answer.
Pnina, the only one present who was raised by apathetic parents, is unable to form - or formulate - an opinion. She does, however, harbor a deep desire, which she articulates as the group disperses to get dinner ready.
"All I ever wanted," she says wistfully, with the longing born of foiled fantasies, "was to be a good mother."