Despite everything that I said in my last post about how children are being raised these days, I take my hat off to anyone that actually has children of their own.
Every diaper changing I sit near, every bumped head that’s soothed, every mid conversation sleeve tug that a parent endures, makes me want to call my own parents up and thank them for the ten million unremembered moments where I now see I owed them a “cheers for that”.
But there is a shift in this relationship that I see happening amongst all my friends. Whereas in highschool you competed in the schoolyard over whose parents were coolest, then in college whose are the most embarrassing, then in your early work life over whose parents were the most financially sound with advice, the conversation has moved on once more.
Now when I hear people talk about their folks it’s with a twinge of concern and a mildly furrowed brow. The kind of tone that… a parent takes.
Suddenly, the day-to-day life of our parents is something to be vexed about, lose sleep over and bite nails away.
First, there’s their health. While they worried about our measles and mumps, we now wait for a diagnosis of the worst things we can think of to the strange nagging things that just don’t heal. I hear myself telling my mother to look after her throat that never seems to get better. I research medication online and look for Chinese remedies that are supposed to help. Just the way that my mother used to do for me.
I’d think nothing of traipsing off to the far ends of the earth when I was younger and the parental fretting that went into imagining what horrors might lie in the jungles of Borneo was half the fun. I’ll be fine, I’m in a resort by a pool, but knowing that my parents might imagine me in the jaws of a jungle dwelling beast somehow made it a little sweeter. Now I fret when they go to a cabin in the National Forests. Or drive. Or walk to the shops.
Then of course there’s the horrific divorce rate. It’s not just amongst the young ‘uns. More of my friends’ parents are single and dating every year it seems. The odd thing is when you take on the role as guide. One friend I know has started giving dating advice to her father. It’s a brave new world out there and she’s talking him through it. Amazing when you consider that it was only a couple of decades ago that our parents were the shoulders we cried on when we had that first broken heart. Now we have to explain to them why she didn’t call.
We settle the disputes between them, do their finances for them, encourage them to go out and play in the world, take them home when they’re tired and panic if we haven’t heard from them in a few days.
We tell our parents to not worry about work so much and travel more, we tell them to watch what they eat and exercise, we get them started on the internet and then marvel at the fact that they’ve conquered Skype and do things on it that we didn’t know you could.
And somewhere along the way, we start repeating back to them all the things that they said to us when we were growing up. Sometimes whole complete verbatim quotes, the ones we swore we’d never, ever say. And then you realize that maybe your whole life you get ready for a time when you’ll swap jobs.
I feel like I’m on the turn with my parents, that there’s a timing that’s happening right now where there is a baton being passed between us. I can’t put it down to anything in particular. There’s no ah-hah moment where I think this is the half way mark. It’s more a sense that there’s been a shifting in the tide. I’ll probably look back and see the signposts with the wisdom of hindsight, but right now I walk past them and barely perceive their shadows.
Don’t get me wrong, my folks are alive and well and have a lot of kick in them. But I think everyone in their forties realizes that the time you only grasped intellectually, is now physically upon you.
On one hand I want to do everything I can for the people who made me the man who I am today. On the other, I want to stick my head in the sand.
Then I do the usual thing when I’m in strife and think about what my parents would do in this situation. And they’d tell me that you have to guide someone, pick them up when they fall, listen to them, offer a little advice and then send them on their way because they’re going to be just fine in the end.
They’re going to be just fine.
A big hug to you and the two people who made you.