Prepare To Be The Parent of Your Parents
Translated from Spanish as printed in El Tren de la Vida
When we arrive in the world we are children and we hope to maintain in that condition all our life….being loved, spoiled, and educated. May our parents surround us in gigantic love through our entire journey through life. When life hurts we have a maternal lap on which we rejoice. When life becomes distressing, we find in our old men wise advice. When that is missing, there is always a vacuum, a strange feeling that we are the exception.
Even as adults, we seek to recognize our childhood in the eyes of our parents. We secretly wish for their mindful attention, such as that favorite meal on our birthday or the shirt of the soccer team if we are at home.
You are never prepared to change places in this relationship.
It’s hard to accept that our parents grow old. Understand that these small limitations that begin to show are not due to laziness or contempt. That if they forget to give a message, it is not because they do not care about our urgency. That if they ask us to repeat things to them, it is because they no longer listen very well … and sometimes it is not deafness, but simple distraction. It takes us a long time to accept that they are no longer the same … I was going to say “superheroes”. We cannot and should not share all our anguish, because for them the proportions are much greater and everything becomes unbalanced: heart rate, blood pressure, glycemic index or emotional balance.
Little by little we find ourselves doing more for love. Trying to talk about what is avoidable. Thus, unintentionally we began to reverse the protection rules we’d come to know. We begin to try to protect our parents from the misadventures of this world.
We tell you that we are doing well, even though we are in crisis. We dampen the pediatrician’s diagnosis so that the grandson’s illness seems simple. We hide marital problems to pretend that we have built a lasting family. We filter the anguish that can be temporary instead of sharing any problems. They don’t have to worry, we’ll be fine at the end of the day and if not, at the end of our lives. However, when we change those small details in the relationship, we are becoming a little orphaned. We keep our eyes open in the middle of the night without being able to run crying to our parents’ bed. We hide our fear of being unemployed, maybe no longer a couple, or losing our house so that they do not suffer for us, and so we are left alone in that wait, without a lap, a hug or a smile to console us.
And they will be more difficult children because they don’t remember who their parents are. They will react to your first grumbles because they know that, deep down, you think you owe them obedience. They will minimize your first arguments and try to show that they are still independent, even when that moment has passed, because it is difficult to imagine themselves without total control of their own routines. But they will yield gradually, when the physical or mental strength is reduced and they can find in your love for them a balance for all the changes that frighten them.
It will not be easy for you. It is not the logic of life. Even if you are a parent, nobody prepares you to be the parent of your parents. And if you are not a parent, you will have to learn the peculiarities of this role to protect those you love.
If you can, smile in front of their senile comments or tell them a joke while eating together. Listen to that repeated story until tired as if it were the first time, and ask questions as if everything was unsaid before. Kiss them on the forehead with all possible caring, as when you put a child in bed, promising that when he opens his eyes, the next morning, the world will still be there, as before, untouchable, to play.
Because if you arrived here by your parents side at this time, licensed to interfere in their lives, it was because they came a long way giving friendship. And if you propose to live this moment with all the intensity, you will only show how great is your ability to love and regain the love that they offered you.