It's not easy seeing a parent once so physical, so vital and brimming with energy, get old.
We are used to running to our parents when times are tough - when we need emotional support, and sometimes financial help. Mom and Dad can always make things better, right? Just like when they kissed boo-boos and the pain magically disappeared.
As time goes on, the child grows up and child and parent tend to equalize - although we still head to Mom's for dinner or enjoy a chat with Dad - both still giving advice and using the wisdom of their years and their experiences to help us.
Time moves on even more and Mom and Dad tend to look to us - this time for help. And we, the children, suddenly morph into a new kind of parenting role. We are now decision makers. We help our parents decide on a nursing home or assisted living, or downsizing from the big family home. We teach them how to pay their bills on line and take them to appointments if they need assistance.
And sometimes we feed them and change their diapers - something neither grown child or aging parent wants. But it happens in life. That strange transition.
The road is often smooth. But is just as often rocky. What if Dad wants to remarry at the age of 80, ten years after Mom died? What if Mom decides to go and live in a commune and spend her days harvesting the veggies she lovingly grows? What if she sold her home and instead of giving the proceeds to you - gives it to the local cat shelter?
What if Dad is 82 and wants to marry a 35 year old. Is it love? Is it even our business?
If Mom or Dad wants to continue eating fatty foods, greased up in a pan of butter, with mandatory second helpings, they he or she can, right? Or do we gently step in and suggest a better way of preparing food?
I was reading an article by a middle aged woman who agonized over her 80-something father's decision to marry a younger woman and move out of state.
Readers of the article supported her and suggested she do what she needed to do to stop him. Others berated her - who did she think she was? He is of sound mind and body and has earned the right to do as he darn well pleased!
Today I read an article about a woman clearing out her mothers house, after she had been admitted to care due to her Alzheimer's. She sold off what she could and threw almost everything else away. Again, she had her supporters - readers lamenting their own parent's hoarding and endless buying of "trash" and leaving it all for their adult children to figure out. Others argued that the aging mother lived her life as she wanted - and who was anyone - even a daughter - to gauge what parts of her life were "rubbish" and what weren't?
We all want what is best for our parents - and we'd hate to think of them being scammed or running into danger, without us intervening and letting them know the risks. Planning for their care in a nursing home, hospice or even their death is emotionally devastating for many. And aging parents are lucky to have grown children who care so much.
But other grown children take over the reigns and start treating their parents like children - essentially stripping them of their rights and making decisions that are not within their rights.
So if Mom wants to sell that house she spend 30 years paying for - and setting up a hippie commune upstate, then what is an adult child do? My guess is nothing.
When there is mental or physical impairment, appropriate "stepping" up is not only necessary but a wonderful gift from a grown child to an aging parent. But if the aging parent simply wants to live life in a way you disagree with - there no choice, really. Back off and let Mom and Dad live!
As parents of young children - we need to remember that we are not raising "mini-me's". Our children are not us. They may not look like us, act like us or turn out like us. They are individuals. We also need to remember this of our aging parents. While some absolutely need our help and may even fully depend on us, many others need to be given the same rights and freedoms and choices as anyone else.
Are you caring for an aging parent? Do you feel like you have to make decisions you never thought you'd have to? Or are you the aging parent? Do you feel your grown children are beginning to treat you like a child or is that parent-adult children transition a smooth one?
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