These days, it feels like my parenting responsibilities have multiplied.
No, I haven’t taken on any more kids. (Thank goodness). Instead, I’ve added my elderly parents to my list of dependents.
So I’m now responsible for my 11-year-old son on one end of the age spectrum and my parents, who are almost 80, on the other. Both need a lot of attention, and both need a stern talk occasionally.
I could use a few more arms to handle this caretaking juggling act.
A few days ago, I helped move my parents from their Dallas home to a retirement community just a few miles away.
They’re downsizing from a 3,000-square-foot home to an apartment that’s less than 1,000 square feet. It’s taken months for my older brother and me to persuade my parents that the move was necessary.
Like most elderly people, they resisted giving up their home. A home is a sign of independence. But domestic tasks that were once easy – such as arranging lawn care, buying groceries, and cooking – had become overwhelming.
Plus, both my parents have had health problems and are unsteady on their feet. Each has fallen numerous times and often have difficulty giving up.
Rationally, the move into the upscale assisted living facility made perfect sense. My parents won’t have to cook, clean, schedule repairs, pay utilities or worry about emergency medical attention. For one monthly payment, all their needs will be met.
Leaving your home is a big adjustment
Still, they resisted the move for a long time. I often became impatient, thinking they were being hardheaded. Now, after observing and listening to my parents closely, I understand their thinking.
Moving to a retirement community, no matter how nice, is a sign you’re on the last lap of life.
Many of my parents’ friends have passed away. My parents, Tip and Nancy, could be next. Who knows? I certainly hope not. I hope they adjust to their new home, make friends and enjoy having fewer responsibilities for years to come.
For much of my adult life, I saw my parents only periodically. Now, I see them every day. I help them open their mail, pay their bills and get to medical appointments.
I arrive at their apartment at 9 a.m., just after dropping off my son, Connor, at school. I spend a few hours with my parents before heading back to school to get Connor at 3:30.
If I were married, maybe my wife could run Connor to school and back. Maybe she could check on my parents some days.
Instead, I’m always on duty. Do I mind? Not usually. Connor is a great kid, and I know I only have a few years with him before he’s gone.
Likewise, my parents are wonderful people. They did a magnificent job caring for me and preparing me for life’s challenges. Now it’s time for me to care for them. I feel fortunate we live in the same town. I feel fortunate their health is relatively good.
Many other adults find themselves in my shoes: caring for a young child and old parents. We can resent the responsibility or embrace the opportunity to observe someone starting the journey of life and others ending it.
We can learn from both our kids and our parents. They need us, and we need them.
If you’re caring for the young and old, be thankful. The responsibility enriches our lives and makes us grow. The more we give, the more we will have to give.