While that is usually being shouted (if only mentally) by a fuming teenager, let’s admit it — even as adults, our parents are sometimes…PARENTS!
We spend our childhood adoring them. Our teen years ignoring them. And between the ages of 18 and 22, we start to understand what they have taught us. And how much more we still can learn.
We seek their advice (at times) on weddings, marriage, pregnancy and parenting. We strive to show our excellent decision-making skills, and they continue to see us as 5-year-olds incapable of making excellent decisions.
But one day, something shifts. You suddenly notice the gray hair. The stoop to the shoulders. The lack of speed in getting up and around.
The afternoon naps. A missing appetite. Hearing loss. Or disinterest in things that had once delighted.
Suddenly, your parents are…older. And roles have reversed.
I was convinced my Dad would live to be 100. He worked till he was 80, and then continued to keep himself busy and sharp until cancer showed up — unexpected and very uninvited — and broke our hearts.
Now, I assist my mother in maintaining her independence. I get her to the grocery store. The doctor. Various errands. Chat with her several times a week to make sure she hasn’t run out of something dire. Lecture her on shoveling the sidewalk at 86. Keep her updated on weather and some news, which she struggles to hear on TV. My brother and a neighbor check in on her, as well as friends who are always willing to stop by and help her if a need arises and they can reach her faster. I am beyond grateful for their concern.
I read once that watching our parents age is the equivalent of walking on a road that runs parallel to theirs. We are beside them, but watching them veer ever so slowly away as they age, until they eventually are no longer beside us. We can see them, hear them — but not walk their road with them.
Ours has never been a perfect relationship, but I find that is probably the norm with mothers and daughters. We women like our independence. Yet find it hard to give our children that which we fought our mothers for so fiercely. I can forgive her for still seeing me as I was at 13, even as I sometimes wish I was right back there, under her parental protection — rather than needing to offer her mine.
I walk this path, still beside her — but seeing her journey turn slightly away, every few steps. She drives me bananas over little things that seem so insignificant to everyone else, but clutter up her shrinking world. She can’t understand my life, my interests or my struggles with my youngest’s special needs. She can’t always hear me when I talk, which leads to misunderstandings and frustration for both of us.
So, I watch her with a bit of sadness as we journey on. And hope that she won’t walk away too fast.
There is still much I have to learn.