It happened in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday they were young and active with great stories to tell. Now, their activity is limited to doctor’s appointments and trips to the grocery store and their stories are about their doctor’s appointments and trips to the grocery store. The two people I relied upon for most of my life now have to rely on me. I am becoming a parent to my parents. The trouble is they live over 900 miles away. So the question remains, how do I convince them to move away from the only state they have ever lived in? My mother is an easy sell. She wants to be closer to her daughters and grandchildren, my father is the stubborn one. I guess what they say is true, as you get older you become stuck in your ways. Except in my father’s case, this has been true for as long as I can remember.
My dad is of the mindset that since he is thirty years older than me, he knows better. So how do you convince a Traditionalist a Gen X’er may now know what’s best? Personally, I don’t think it’s just about moving. It’s about realizing you don’t have control over the aging process. For my dad it’s not just about aging, he has health issues that have resulted from years of smoking. Although he quit over 30 years ago, the damage has been done. My dad has been coping with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). He has been tethered to oxygen for the last few years. He doesn’t talk about it but I know he hates it, who wouldn’t? Due to the power of technology, he can take his oxygen with him in a handheld portable oxygen concentrator instead of lugging around an oxygen tank. He has other aches and pains in his back and hip but can still shuffle around if he needs to. The problem is he doesn’t necessarily want to.
You never want to think of your parents as senior citizens, let alone have the roles as parent and child reversed. A recent study by Steven Zarit, a professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University and his colleagues looked at parental stubbornness as a complicating factor in intergenerational relationships. Not surprisingly, adult children were more likely to say their parents were acting stubborn than the parents were to see the behavior in themselves. Understanding why parents may be “insisting, resisting, or persisting in their ways or opinions,” the study reads, can lead to better communication. Zarit’s advice to the adult child: “Do not pick arguments. Do not make a parent feel defensive. Plant an idea, step back, and bring it up later. Be patient.”
With that being said, I have some work to do. Patience is the first thing I need to find. I can remember how scary it was for me and my family moving to a new state three years ago. The saving grace was knowing I would be closer to my sister and her family and I even rekindled an old high school friendship. These are the little things that get me by each day. Having heart to heart talks with my parents, especially my dad, was not something we ever did but the time has come where I need to be the adult and leave the judgment behind. I don’t know how many years will be left, but what I do know is no matter how many disagreements we have, or how many times I wish they would stop treating me like a child, I need them in my life. It’s time to come full circle and take care of them the way they took care of me.