Thursday, June 14, 2018

Parenting Your Parents

The Headlines:

There comes a time...

When Parents need to be parented. 

It's like flipping a switch.  And everything changes.

Parents are like your right arm.  You arm helps you get things done.  It's a part of you.  You love and need it.  Until one day it gets a sprain... still works but it just isn't the same anymore.

When you're a kid you can't wait to get old.  "I'm 6 and 3/4 almost 7," they say.  Or "It's 1 day until I turn TEN" kids scream!  They constantly compare ages at lunch and on the play ground.  The pecking order can be decided based on the earliest birth date.

Until one day, usually around 29, it all changes.  You're going to be 30.   A real grown up for sure.
Birthdays then start to mean a little less... in fact you savor the years rather than wish them away.   You get married, start your family and all is well for a while.  Until something changes.

And suddenly it hits you - your PARENTS are old.  That moment in time is one you'll never forget.  You may cry, you may laugh a bit... but one thing's for sure.  It's going to get interesting.

Mind you, there's a good chance you have children, possibly small, who still really need their parents.  So you're kind of in a pickle.  Or sandwiched?  However you say it, you're getting pulled in two directions.  By 2 simultaneous "Parenting" jobs.

5 Clues Your Parents Need Parenting

1 - Driving - This "skill" is one of the first to go.  It can be slightly less noticeable than some of the points below.  Because, we all know driving can be a challenge at any age.  But for old people, the challenge is, shall we say, elevated.  Like when your parents start bumping into things, veering off roads, scraping sides, blaming everyone else for THEIR bad driving.   Or the scariest one: falling asleep behind the wheel.  Then you know, old age has definitely set in.

Time to get in the driver seat every time you're around them.  Let them drive on an "as-needed" basis only.   And pray.  Every night.

2 - Memory - This comes and goes over time.  It will be better, than it can get worse.  It will cause arguments and frustration.  But the best option is to laugh it off - tell them what time you'll be leaving for the movie 20 times.  Then, 20 times more.  It's okay.  Frustrating but okay.

They may have Alzheimers, they may have dementia, they may just be old.  It probably doesn't matter.  It's during this stage your parent is just not how they used to be.  Unable to do the things they once were so good at.  That special dinner made from memory is now missing a few ingredients.  It may not even really taste the same.

Time to cook for them.  Or go out.

3 - Traveling - Have you noticed as people get older they don't like to travel as far?   First, they no longer want to go overseas.  Then, they don't want to travel outside the country, after that getting on  a plane can be too difficult until finally going far beyond their own city seems like a daunting task.  Unless of course, they go with YOU.  You are now their only escape route to a true vacation.

Memories will be made that way.  Wait, hopefully memories will be made (see #2)!

Time to travel together.  Remember, patience is a virtue.

4 - Socializing -  This becomes a lot less important to your parents when they're getting older.  They will talk to who they want to, when they want to.  They may even be a little rude to servers, random strangers and the occasional friend.

They could start to isolate themselves more.  Everyone will be hanging out having a good time and your parents take a seat.  This can prevent them from saying something out of line but it can also just be a big bummer.  Everyone's not necessarily enjoying themselves.  Or maybe it just looks that way.  Sometimes old people need some peace and quiet.  Perhaps hard for you to understand.   But not for them.

Time to make sure they have someone to talk to (if they want)?  This is something you do for your kids... now do it for them.  Remember, your parents probably used to do it for you too!

5 - Medical -  Now this is the hard one.  Nothing funny about it.  Things start to crumble during this time of their lives.  Let's be clear... things start crumbling after 40 but this is different.  At least according to my Mom. She reminds me every time I talk to her.  She's tired.  She aches.  She's breaking down.  Like a beloved old Volvo.

This can hit you like a ton of bricks like in my case, where my Dad almost died from a brain aneurysm.  I wrote about that HERE ... it was devastating and I thought I had lost my Dad as I knew him forever.  But he actually came back (side note).  Orrrrr it can be a slower process.  Week by week, doctor to doctor, phone call to phone call.  Each time, something new.  Health problems are hard for everyone.  Hardest on the people experiencing them... until you're the one taking care of the person with the health problems.

Time to appreciate time.  You never know how much there is...

Parenting You Parents... if you're around my age - you've lived it and you know - it's a weird experience.  Parents used to be strong - let's call them SUPER HEROES fighting for good in every corner of your life.  They'd defend you from bad dreams and wrong turns.  They rarely (seemingly) made mistakes in your young eyes and you respected the heck out of them.  You took their advice and life was better because of it.  Most of the time.

The problem now is... the tables have turned my friends.  The advice sought... is yours.  You help them, heal them, make the phone calls.  You order off the menu.  You plan, find the triggers, collect the papers, hold the holidays.  You love the heck out of them.  They are still your parents but a completely different version of the parents you once knew.  And it will never change back.

They still care about you... they just have more focus on them.  Their life requires them to... the days of being your cheerleader, while not over,  have just shifted a bit.  They celebrate your wins a little less because their losses might matter more.  Their long term aim becomes short term hits.  While your life has rolled, their lives have rocked and that's a lot of moving.  Especially for someone who's getting old.      

My parents took care of my Grandma(s) as much as they could when I was younger.  I witnessed the whole thing.  It was a hard, long process and I saw my Mom, miss her Mom, when she was still alive.  But, like everything, it's so different when it's you.  So hard to understand until you're there.  Now, this is your new normal.  Not bad, not always good - just different.  So mourn for a minute.  Shed a few tears.  Talk to God.  Then pull up your boot straps and get comfortable.  But don't choose to wish it away 'cause the only change that lies ahead probably ain't the best alternative.

Until it is...

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