When your parents become like children

When your parents become like children

Something I’ve always heard but not really paid much attention to is that as your parents become older, they become more child-like. I look at my own grandmother as an example. A strong woman in her younger days. I have a much better opinion regarding her ageing process (the young vs the old) than I do of my own mother since I was raised by my grandmother.

She is an 80-something year old and over the last couple of years, especially, she’s become more child-like. I don’t mean in the “cute cuddly, I want to spend every single second with you” kind of way. More like the “terrible two, please Lord deliver me” kind of way. I’ve watched her from a distance and I’ve dealt with her face to face. It can be extremely challenging when trying to rationalise something with her. She’s stubborn, set in her own ways and somehow has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old in certain situations. However, she remains quite witty and even though she manages to do some things for herself, requires more help than not.  Whether she wants to admit this to herself or not, is a totally different story.

I look at my own parents and see similar traits happening to them. My dad, who visited with us a few weeks ago, fought with my daughter in the same way that a child her own age would argue and disagree with her. Both their reactions, body language and choice of words were identical and in the middle of it, was me. I felt powerless to stop what was happening and felt torn between the two, clearly not wanting to take sides. (I’ve done this before and received the mother load of negatively ill feelings). In the end, the two of them were back to being friends (the very next day) and I felt like crap for stepping in and defending my daughter because I “expected” better from the adult in the equation. Because of this, I decided to just not get involved and reminded myself of another saying: “Adults shouldn’t get involved in the disputes of children“. Only then did I understand that my dad, despite being the adult in the situation and justifying his actions, required me to approach with caution. It was a tricky situation because I love them both and, in the end, I told myself that I needed to stay sane as well.

Coming back to my grandmother, it’s sad when I look at her because the woman I once looked up to and learned from, has seemingly started living her life backwards. The movie of Benjamin Button comes to mind…I have witnessed my own dad, her son, react to her little outbursts or ageing mannerisms in a less ideal way. Am I following in his footsteps and he in hers? Why do old people become so sensitive to what is said to them, blow things out of context or even manage to get a rise out of you simply by using the wrong tone of voice?

Make no mistake, there’s one thing that’s certain…I love the older people in my life despite the ageing challenges we’re all facing, simply because they are family and I am here because of them. I don’t take that for granted…

There’s a question I have growing inside of me: How do you deal with this, as a now adult, yet still younger than your parent, respectfully? I feel torn and extremely sad at the revelation before me. More so, I am careful in my approach and reaction because, at the same time, I take cognisance of the fact that I too will walk this road some day. But, my own children are in the passenger seat at this point in time and they, in turn, are watching and learning from me, which will dictate their reaction when the time comes…

As the saying goes: “The wheel is round…what goes around, comes around“.

Here’s hoping I age with a little more grace and patience from those around me…I best get practising and ignite the change…

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