When We Become Parents of Our Parents

As children, our parents seem so large, almost super human. Looking up at them in awe, love, sometimes fear or rebelliousness and wondering when would we get to be that big and do things the way we wanted—be our own boss. When would we get to cross the street without holding their hand and make what we wanted to eat for dinner, finish or not finish it and still watch TV?! We’ll show them! We’ll stay up all night and eat cookies. No one will stop us! We’ll take over the world sailing in a sea of chocolate milk.

We naturally take for granted all the care they put into our daily lives. I mean, they’re supposed to feed and clothe us. They’re our parents after all. Maybe they weren’t always smiling or laughing. Sometimes they were exhausted and cranky but here we are as adults. We made it! Now we go about our lives realizing with the power of being a grown up comes all the responsibility. Sometimes, we crave a home made meal, someone to wonder if we’ve made it home alright. Maybe even someone who cares enough to be a little tough on us when we need it. No punishments, we can be done with those. I mean aren’t taxes enough? Just kidding!

My parents are visiting me this week and it’s been so incredibly interesting. All of a sudden, I feel like the parent. I mean I’ve seen them getting older. They are at once old and tired and still vital and alert but in the end, I feel so responsible for them. When did this happen? I didn’t want them walking alone, especially at night, in a city they weren’t familiar with. I wanted to make sure they enjoyed all their meals and got to where they needed to go. That they got plenty of rest and were comfortable. They seemed so vulnerable, so human, so childlike even. Not only did I appreciate even more what they went through raising four children on one income, I appreciated the patience with which my Mom handled it and the great responsibility my father bore all those years. A few days and nights of “parenting” and I’m exhausted! Most days, I barely manage to take care of myself! How do parents do it and how do we handle the role reversal when it happens? I have friends who had to handle so much more. Sometimes putting parents in homes or hospitals for long term care or living with parents and taking care of them daily. It is the natural order of things I suppose, the cycle of life. And of course, part of me wonders what relationship did I have with my parents in a past life? What did we all have? Were we their parents, siblings, friends, spouses? How do you handle the role reversal? Has talking to a psychic helped?

6 thoughts on “When We Become Parents of Our Parents

  1. browneyes

    This article hits home with me. Like Darcy, my mother came to me in a dream in the spring of 1990. She simply walked up to me and took my hand, looked at me and said “I’ll die this summer.” Sure enough,July 25 1990, she died. I was in nursing school at the time and had told several of my classmates of the dream. They all remembered it and commented with amazement of the insight I had. I was just heartbroken.
    Then in 2000, my dad was told that the cancer that he had battled for so long had returned in his bones. I took care of him for several months. I put in a full days work every morning before going to my paying job. The embarrassment he went through with me helping him to void in the urinal and clean him up when he soiled the bed was awful but I was the only one to do it. Unlike Mary Jean, I had two brothers, one that never came around and one that lived 4 hrs away so he had an excuse to not be there. When I was realizing that my dad was really ill this time, I had a dream about my deceased uncle that was my dads youngest brother. He came to me in a dream too and told me that he loved me. After my dads passing in March of 2001, the dream of my uncle kept popping into my mind. Until one day while thinking of that dream, a little voice told me to go to the cemetary and look at the headstones. I did. My dad said his last words to me and closed his eyes on March13th and died on March15th. My uncle had died March 13th of 1980. After I connected the dates and knew then that my uncle had been giving me a timeline of when I would lose my dad I didnt have that dream plague me like it had before.
    My mom was 40 when I was born and it seemed she was always ill with one thing or another including breast cancer. Numerous hospital stays for her and then my dad after my Moms passing.
    I am so glad that I could be here for my parents and never had to go through putting them in nursing homes or anything like that.
    I just wish I had known my dreams were really telling me something instead of passing them off as just dreams.

  2. Ron

    That’s a really good article and a tough question. My folks died when I was a teenager, but my daughter feels a responsibility for me. These days when technology is so advanced, the playing field is so different from then. That brings up more questions. Somewhere in there, there is a karmic bond. You’re right. We might be slaves to high tech, but the family bond can and will still be strong. I changed enough of her diapers – maybe some day she’ll have to change mine. I remember having to give my grandmother a bath. She wouldn’t do it on her own. It was an embarrassment for both of us and she tried to beat me with her cane for it, but it had to be done. I dearly loved her and I’m sure she still loves me from some spiritual perspective. Some day I’ll love my daughter in that same way but I don’t want to think about it.

  3. Mary Jean

    Our Mom (93) was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer. Her intial reaction was that of an adult; she was a real trooper. Her generation introduced the concept of “que sera sera” better known today as “not sweating the small stuff” or in this case the “big stuff”. In comparison, we children needed time to shed our private tears and to get behind this curve ball that life had thrown our way. The reversal in roles came with the treatments. Mom frightened and exhausted, was happy to have us drive her to appointments, deal with the medical staff and ensure that she had good food, clean clothes and enough rest. We hugged her and dried her tears when she was sad and cleaned her when the treatments made her ill. Seven children assuming the parenting role has its ups and downs. Seven sets of hands means that no one is ever truly exhausted. Seven people trying to run a household can be chaotic, confusing and sometimes downright frightening. We were challenged to operate as a team. And thanks to Mom’s and Dad’s being frugal, money was not a worry. We were taught that family is important. One of us needed love, caring and support and we were there. It reminded me of a much loved song … ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR LOVE…
    Mary Jean – Canada


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