We’ve all heard the tired cliché, “Wait until you have kids of your own; then you’ll understand.”
Usually, we get this from our parents with whom we’ve had some disagreement or misunderstanding, or yes, even a full-fledged screaming match (e.g. with Mom…again).
But how often do we think about when we are old and gray like our parents?
Parents of newborns deal with late night feedings, messy diaper changes, inconvenient spills, a barrage of items to tote around (don’t forget to get the baby), and having to adhere to an infant’s schedule.
Babies are so tiny and helpless, AND WE ADORE THEM! You could be exhausted, drained, tired, on the brink of an anxiety attack; and yet you* will still get up each and every time the baby monitor starts lighting up like Times Square on New Year’s. They can’t thank you or call out, except for the crying, and yet you don’t resent them.
*”You” in this case refers to good mothers and/or fathers, where such is the case. Depressingly enough, we all know some lame moms and dads.
Not So Newborn
But as the children get older, parents often talk about how hard it is, how unappreciated they are.
The kids begin talking (complaining) and doing (asking you to do) more and more things for themselves, and you begin to notice all the little AND big things you do for them that go unnoticed, and without a thank you. I mean sometimes, you get a loose hug or a forced, “Thanks mom”, but more often than not, your children will take you for granted, and yet you continue to cater to their every need, demanded and unspoken alike.
They think you are a pain, or uncool, and that YOU just don’t understand what THEY are going through, what they want or what they need.*
*Some of you who know me and my family, are thinking, just wait ’til your 9-year-old daughter is a 13-year-old nightmare.
I know, I know. I have a loooooooong way to go before I’m licensed to preach, but I have learned a thing or two from my own parents along the way and from the relationships I’ve been able to observe around me.
And, unfortunately, myself to be included, we are mostly failing, not at parenting our children, but at taking care of our “Adult Kids”.
What the heck is an “Adult Kid”?
And please don’t misinterpret this as a derogatory term.
As far as your parents are concerned, you will always be their “baby“, but, unfortunately, at one point in their lives the roles begin to reverse and they become an “Adult Kid”.
Several years ago, this short anecdote was brought to my attention by my father. I don’t have the original he showed me then, but there are several versions you can find around the internet. This one is from Snopes.
The Wooden Spoon
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year old grandson.
The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table.
But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.
“We must do something about Grandfather,” said the son. I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.
There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was now served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone.
Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”
Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food from when I grow up.”
The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table.
For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family.
And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth got soiled.
Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listen, and their minds ever process the messages they absorb. If they see us patiently provide a happy home atmosphere for family members, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives.
Somehow, as we get older, our responsibility as a parent and adult becomes more important than our responsibility as sons and daughters, or even as brothers and sisters.
“We” are no longer our parent’s problem, and we’ve got our own problems to deal with. Our parents take a backseat to our own parenting. Suddenly they find themselves with no one to look after them. Suddenly, there isn’t a family unit that can depend on each other; instead, everyone has been broken off into independent sectors. To each his own.
The truth is your parents, grandparents, or even siblings may eventually become as time consuming and/or costly as your own children. They need to be taken care of; perhaps even fed, bathed, or changed; taken to the doctor or market. They need to be nurtured, talked to, and listened to just like your kids do. They need love and attention, even when it is burdensome.
No one will admit that their children can feel like a burden, because they think that will make them sound like a bad parent; however, how quick we are to express how much of a heavy load our elders have become.
Your parents would never choose to put a strain on your life, in the same way a baby doesn’t choose to come into this world.
100/100 or 50/50 ?
We demand so much of our parents and elders, whom rarely demanded such from us. No one is saying it is easy to care for either an infant or an elderly person; nor am I suggesting one can’t voice their discontent or frustrations. We are only human. However, we must not forget our Duty. Yes, we LOVE our family, and we should do all things out of love.
But guess what?
Love is about sacrifice, and sacrifice usually means doing something you don’t really feel like doing. I read a quote on Facebook today about marriage being 100/100, rather than 50/50. You have to be willing to give everything; and this applies to any relationship with a loved one, not just marriage.
We have to love and support each other even when it is hard and inconvenient; even when we do not think our actions will be reciprocated.
Often times our loved ones ARE aware of the lack of attention and of just how much of a hindrance they have become in our lives. To the point where some begin to wonder, “is this really living?” and “is this really worth living?”
Life can be difficult enough when you are young, healthy, and independent; imagine how it must feel for your elders, or those who are sick and dependent on others for care.
That short story really touched my heart years ago; it still gets to me every time I read it. Yet I can’t say that I have done much to change. As of late, however, it keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.
And although the main focus of this post has been that we should care for our elderly loved ones, it is really a call in general to not abandon your family. No matter the distance (please do not break out into the Backstreet Boys), no matter what may occur between you and your loved ones; forgive and forget, move on and love on.
1 John 4:20 (NIV)
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
REMEMBER: Kids are like sponges, observing and ABSORBING everything around them. Let them observe and Absorb your good ways.
Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
I challenge all (10 of you reading this) to take just 5 minutes out of each day for your parents, grandparents, or any loved ones that might need your love and attention. 5 minutes is a mere .3% of your day. YES, POINT 3 Percent. Not even 1 %!
Do the math. You spend a lot more time in the bathroom doing your necessities, so to speak; let alone on useless nonsense like social media and the internet.
(Guilty as Charged)
Leviticus 19:32 (NIV)
Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 (NIV)
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
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