I know I’m not alone in caring for an aging parent, in my case my almost 82-year-old Dad, a former engineer who was married 54 years to my mother and only now lives on his own.
Turns out, increasing numbers of us are finding ourselves in the role of parent to our own parents. Some of use have nearly raised our own children, while others have never had them but find themselves caring for an aging parent, family member or friend. Surveys put the number at 70% of working adults who are caring for one, or more, aging family member.
Like all of them, I never in a million years thought this was how it would be. My parents were strong and capable people, vibrantly alive and engaged in adding something to this world. My whole life they have been a source of support and (at times unwanted) advice. When sickness came they were able to fight it off with gusto for years before disease got firm hold.
Childhood has changed. A lot.
I knew that already, though my youngest is 15, without running across this item from NextDraft, one of my favorite daily reads. Can you imagine the absurdity of a police investigation of parents who had the poor judgement to let their children walk home from a park near their home? The kids didn’t get halfway before the police were there to pick them up and drive them the rest of the way.
In a case of being the right people in the right place, these parents (Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Maryland) were not grateful, chagrined or humbled at being caught exercising the proper care of their children. And they weren’t arrested like a South Carolina mother who let her daughter play at the playground while she was at work. These parents, to varying degrees, practice what my own parents did, a sort of “free range” parenting that allows calculated risks after careful planning.
We should all be cheering these people. They are trying to give their children an incredible, invaluable gift — an old fashioned childhood.
I can’t believe we are still arguing about some topics, one of the most recent examples is breastfeeding. My babies are 21, 18 and 14, so those days are long gone for me. But the pressure to breastfeed (healthier, closer bonding) remains just as strong for today’s moms and that’s a crying shame.
C’mon girls, can we not learn to support each other’s choices? Agree to disagree?
It seems parenting nightmares is a recurring theme here on the blog.
Peter Lanza is another example of a parent living out the worst possible nightmare… my heart break’s for him. His son killed children, his own mother and other innocent adults in an incident that will be remembered forever. Imagine knowing you gave birth to that. Imagine having your name be linked to such horror.
This is the part of the story, his own words, that I found most compelling. “I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them.”
Yesterday I talked (ranted) about Wendy Davis’ glaring example of bad mothering, but paradoxically I’m not going to put the focus today on a very good father, sports “color” man Jerry Remy who announced he’s returning to work after suffering every parent’s worst nightmare, a child who commits a horrible crime.
When this happens everyone looks to the parents… I did too. I wondered about what went on in that house, and how this young man who seemed to have a very nice family and life could go so wrong. As a parent, I know that hard truth — you can love your heart out, offer every intervention and opportunity, do whatever you can to deliver the best for your child and that can not be enough.
In the end parents can only do so much, the child too has to come some of the way, and some kids don’t. My Mom always says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” This is an example of that I think.
Being weird… odd… strange… those are labels given unthinkingly to some children because they don’t “fit” the model, the idea of what children (or teens) are supposed to be. It’s not good to be different you see, it makes most people pretty uncomfortable. Different isn’t what we expect, what we know how to handle.
As the parent of a child who came within a hair’s breath of being diagnosed with Aspergers, I bleed for him each time I hear these words used to describe him. I remind myself daily that being different isn’t bad. It’s just different.
It’s the expression I keep hearing in ads for pet products that’s fueled this rant. Pet parents… it’s clever I’ll give you that. And I like (as a writer) how it flows as you say the words and how it does describe the way many people feel about their pets.
I know I love my three like crazy, they are truly part of the family and I can’t imagine what we would be like without them. They have made our house a home.
But my pets are NOT my children.
Who ever knew how tough a job parenting would be? Especially now that those loveable, chubby cheeked babies have morphed into self obsessed, freedom craving teens. It seems just when I get one child’s problem sorted out, another comes to take its place. There is no peace, no rest, no chance to catch your breath.
It’s no wonder comedians do routines about this seemingly endless time of perpetual conflict and need to let kids this age try their fledgling wings. The grunts and questionable fashion choices… the abominable noise that passes for music and the utter disregard for anything an older person (parent or not) has to say are pretty hard to take sometimes. Parenting children at this age is by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done, probably will ever do.
If I’d only known in the early 1990s what I know today… I’d have been a good deal more hesitant, had a few more sleepless nights, worried that my husband and I weren’t up to the task… that our different approaches to parenting would tear us apart. Now there’s no time for that — we’re in this, 3 kids deep, for better or worse.
In truth, most of it has been really wonderful… the best use of my energies that I can imagine. I wouldn’t trade a moment of this experience for a childless, orderly existence.
It’s just that no one tells prospective parents that beyond the softer skills — love and patience and humor, raising a child will call for innards of hard, unyielding steel. That’s right, steel.
It never fails… as we all come to grips with the horror and heartbreak of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, there seems to be a growing, visceral anger toward the first of the victims that day… the shooter’s mother Nancy Lanza. Blame after all, must be assigned. And when things go wrong like they did last Friday, it is to the mother that all eyes turn, all fingers point.
In fact, some are more angry with the mother than the son. Well I’m angry too… infuriated by the rush to judgement of a woman who is just as much a victim as anyone who lost their lives that day.