Sending out a savta SOS

I knew it was time to call in the big guns. It was time to call for grandma.

new amanda logo 88 (photo credit: )
new amanda logo 88
(photo credit: )
That Wednesday afternoon had started out so promisingly: My mother-in-law phoned me at work and offered to spend quality time with my big boy, three-and-a-half-year-old Ya'ir, so I could do the same with the 21-month-old twins. (That was very unexpected and generous of her, since she spends every Tuesday afternoon with the three kids while I have my weekly working vacation, staying in Adultsville at the office until late.) I got to the twins' day care and the first clue that something had gone wrong was when I saw that Kinneret was wearing winter clothes - definitely not what I had dressed her in that morning when I groggily remembered the forecasted heat wave. Her hair looked matted and she kept muttering something about her pacifier. I asked the babysitter where it was and she pointed to a big plastic bag filled with stinking sheets. "Ima," the woman said in proxy for Kinneret, "I threw up." I don't know what was more irritating, hearing that the caregivers didn't fish out Kinneret's beloved pacifier (especially at this, her hour of need), realizing that they just gathered up the sheets and stuck them in a bag without rinsing them off, or hearing this giantess of a woman speak as a baby. The afternoon was looking a little less promising, but ever the optimist I started driving us home while hoping that I'd get Kinneret changed and then we'd all head out to a playground. Retching sounds from the back alerted me to a modification of that plan while Kinneret again vomited, this time all over herself and her car seat. Unfortunately her twin, Yaron, strapped in next to her, couldn't get out of the line of fire. After parking and using the rest of the returned winter clothes to clean them off (mental note: bring spare summer clothes to day care), I again hoped for the best and got them upstairs for a bath. Two baths later, now with Yaron joining in the puking fray as well, with several direct hits on me, I knew it was time to call in the big guns. I sent out a savta SOS. AS MY HUSBAND, a big mama's boy, said recently, "Life is just so much better when Ima's around." The kids agree and light up with glee every time she enters the door. Kinneret learned to say "Tata" before Ima, and Yaron was recently spotted pointing at a picture of her and making a good attempt at "savta" himself. And then there's Ya'ir. The most clear example is that the last time he was sick he said he needed to go to savta's house and get well. No mama's boy he. She turns 70 this month. Not slowed down one whit, every week she spends an afternoon at each of her three children's homes, tending her flock of seven grandchildren. She is our rock, our respite - and the reason we decided to stay in Jerusalem rather than move out to the 'burbs. Since the twins were born I haven't spent a grush on clothing: How can savta come empty handed when her youngest granddaughter is always wearing boys' clothing? And, of course, anything she buys for Ya'ir will eventually be worn by Yaron; and if she's already buying clothing, then she can't let Yaron feel left out... I fear that we take dreadful advantage of her. A retired teacher, before the grandkids were born she had dedicated her time to painting, learning Japanese art, social visits with her numerous friends, and trips abroad with her companion (who, lucky for us, is our very trusted pediatrician). Now she phones up in early June to schedule for August which week she is dedicating to our family's child care. I am firmly convinced I have the best mother-in-law around and that my children have a super savta. But apparently there are a few others in this country, which is so reliant on the financial, physical and emotional support of grandparents. A reader who raised her own children without the help of grandparents wrote in, "Today I am glad that I can be of 'savta assistance' to my daughter, who has a seven-and-a-half-year-old girl, whom I took care of from four months till two-and-a-half years, and a two-week-old baby, who will be left in my care from November onwards when my daughter goes back to work. No easy job for a 63-year-old savta, but I am glad that I can give a hand." And she raised an important point that, "In 20-or-so years it will be your 'savta turn.'" Not a bad idea, according to a recent University of Haifa study, as reported last week by my colleague Ruth Eglash: Grandparents who take care of their grandchildren when they are young can expect their grandchildren to take care of them as they grow older. "It's a great investment for the future," said Dr. Ahuva Even-Zohar, who lectures at the School of Social Work. "Even little things, like occasional babysitting for a few hours, were enough to make the grandchildren want to return the favor to grandparents." In the case of my husband, he felt so close to his own super savta that we named our first child after her. Now her daughter is, in my very biased opinion, easily filling her mother's very large shoes. The writer is the mother of twin toddlers and a three-year-old.