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Sunday Night Genes 

That’s how helicopter parents have daughters who are free-range parents and granddaughters who are back to helicoptering


This is an article about genes.

You know which genes. The ones you didn’t inherit. Or rather, the ones you may have inherited but spent your entire life modifying. Because you wanted better ones. Perfect ones. Genes that were gourmet, even on Sunday nights. Not genes that would consider serving Shabbos leftovers.

Basically, your grandmother’s genes.

There’s a Yiddish expression, “Zi rudt in de babbe,” loosely translated, “She takes after her grandmother.” By my Theory of Sunday Night Dinner Genes, this isn’t a natural occurrence.

Basically, what happens is this. Chana Tzirel’s mother is not a morning person. She rolls out of bed at the last possible minute and barks orders in all directions, throwing kids onto buses with yogurts in their hands and barely brushed hair. Chana Tzirel hates this kind of morning chaos. She vows: When I become a mother, I will wake up an hour before the first kid wakes up and have hot, homemade bread ready for everyone. My kids will actually wait for their buses, instead of the buses waiting for them. And of course, there will be classical music streaming in the background while all this happens.

That’s how her grandmother had done it. (Okay, maybe without the buses, because there probably weren’t any buses back in der heim.)

Chana Tzirel’s daughter, however, views her mother as a martyr, often going on four hours of sleep. She vows: When I become a mother, I will train my kids to be independent, and I will allow myself to be well rested before I start my day.

(She thinks this as a teen, obviously, when the idea of facing an adulthood of super-early mornings paralyzes her with fear.)

Thus the pattern of genes skipping generations. You vow to do things differently than your mother did, going to the opposite extreme of what you experienced growing up. Then your daughter does the same, going to the opposite extreme of what she saw in your home. Zi rudt in de babbe.

That’s how helicopter parents have daughters who are free-range parents and granddaughters who are back to helicoptering.

The mother who regularly buys takeout has a daughter who vows to always provide homemade meals. The daughter whose mother never orders in vows she will treat her kids to takeout at least once a week.

The mother who demands that her kids make their beds has a daughter who will never in her life ask a kid to make her bed. The daughter whose mother is fine with beds that never get made vows that she will train her kids to make their beds every single morning; her house will look a hotel, always.

The mother who bans Silly Putty in the house has a daughter who will definitely let her kids have Silly Putty in the house. (This daughter isn’t aware that when their turn comes, the enemy will be called Slime, and owning it won’t be the challenge; the kids won’t be happy unless they make it on their own, with Tide and Elmer’s glue. Not the same, definitely not the same. Because plain Silly Putty she would for sure let.)

The mother who works will have a daughter who doesn’t. The SAHM will have a daughter who will not be home in a snood all day. Oh no; she will have a career.

The mother who hoards will have a daughter who chucks. The daughter of the minimalist will save all of her kids’ playgroup projects to show their future spouses.

The mother who never allows sleepovers will have a daughter whose kids will never be asked to sleep at home. The daughter whose mother allows sleepovers will (very silently) vow that her kids will sleep in their own beds every single night, always.

The mother who asks her daughter to iron shirts will have a daughter who sends all shirts to the cleaners. The frugal mother’s daughter will splurge on pre-sifted flour, Speedo goggles, and the Battery Tunnel.

The daughter of a health nut will serve her kids Jolly Ranchers for breakfast, and of course, the mother who enforces strict bedtimes will have a daughter who will never yell at her kids to get into bed, ever.

Then Sunday night rolls around. And all genes — yours, your mother’s (okay, confession, even your grandmother’s), and Chana Tzirel’s — turn into one big pot of (leftover) cholent.

And the kids slink away to make slime.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 870)

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