My generation is often referred to as "the sandwich generation" because many of us have children in our homes and parents also needing care in our homes or a facility. I am not technically in either of those situations so I don't qualify. However, is there a parent anywhere with grown children who doesn't feel the need to parent forever? Is there a child who doesn't feel the need to "parent" an aging parent who can't quite make it alone?
My kids are grown and self-sufficient. They don't need me. They are totally capable of living their lives without my input. I think. I mean, I'm not about to give them that opportunity. I keep my nose in their business by asking questions and I am always here for the long talks moms and kids have to shake things out or to make decisions. I don't make decisions for them, not that they would ask, but I listen and give my opinions and then support their decisions, even when that's hard. It's what I do. I believe in them and their ability to handle consequences of their actions because they have proven over the years that they can do this and I have learned over those same years to be compassionate, but butt out at some point.
My mom, now that's a different story all together. She has always been very capable and since Dad died 35 years ago, very independent. She has always appreciated any help or assistance I've given her and I have done so willingly and lovingly. For the past 4 years she has lived here in the same area where I live and not wanting to drive. She could, but not safely, so good choice. I am the taxi, the checkbook balancer, the call those people and ask questions guy, the take care of business guy. I am her baby girl and she often thanks me for doing those things. It is my pleasure, most of the time; sometimes it's just my job and I just do what needs to be done. Sometimes she doesn't appreciate me at all. Sometimes she resents me. That's hard.
Aging is a mean thing. I have concluded from my experience with people who are 90 and older that being entitled is part of life. "I don't have to" is an answer to things she should be doing, but doesn't want to do. She is right. She only has to eat right if she wants to feel better. She only has to move around more if she wants to be able to move around more. Those are the two areas we discuss most often. With very little progress, I might add, because she doesn't have to. What I see happening with her is decline. Mental and physical and in the last year, much more rapidly than previous years. I want to help her live a more comfortable and healthier life, but I cannot make her do anything. I can't make her be nice about that, either. I can continue to be straight-forward in a kind way, but I can't change who she is or what she says. She can be very mean in her effort to assert herself. It's hard.
I am learning from this experience. I am aware that at some time as I age, my mind will not function as I need it to do. I know that I will continue to lose memory. I will need assistance with physical things more than I do today. I will not be completely self-sufficient and I will need help. I have learned that when that time comes I will have to be very conscious of the words I choose. I will need to remember to be kind and appreciative. I will also need to maintain as much independence as I possibly can for as long as I can. I have also learned that my future really does depend on my today. Mentally I must begin with today. I have to prepare myself to age gracefully and with as much mental awareness as is possible to maintain by eating healthy food and exercising physically to maintain some strength and balance.
Avoiding what I am dealing with today with my own beloved mother for my children. Or perhaps for the people they hire to take care of their old decrepit mom. I don't know, I only know it
BEGINS WITH the choices I make today.