The parenting role never changes. Once you become one, you are one for life. As your children grow and start new lives, they may be gone, but not forgotten. Their safety, their freedom from problems and worry, their joys and sorrows still remain a part of you. Sometimes, as we age, we become more of a part of them than they wish us to be.
Both my husband’s mother and mine needed a place to live for a while in their aging years. Each was alone – somewhat helpless – unable to care for themselves. They weren’t ready for a nursing home, but each had their own special issues to deal with and they were not to be dealt with alone.
It’s not easy to become your parent’s parent. For one thing, it’s like raising another child and the parent you remembered when you were a child is not the same. Now you’re doing the reprimanding; the encouraging; the guiding. When the time comes, I know that my family will handle our aging with some frustration as well as joy.
My husband’s mother lost her husband at the age of 56 and she was left with the care of her mother in law, along with dissolving a funeral business her husband and brother had established many years before. The entire process was extremely stressful, and this sweet lady, who had always exhibited some unusual behavior, now became entangled in her mental disease. She was diagnosed as psychotic schizophrenic and began a heavy dosage of medication to control it. We moved her into our home when our kids were teens. It was difficult for everyone involved. As I look back, I could almost feel myself going through a similar situation if I was in her place. She lived with us for a year and eventually moved to a nursing home, where she thrived until her death.
My mother was living in Florida – alone after losing her second husband to death. She seemed to be doing well, but the fact was she was slowly becoming addicted to prescription drugs. In doing so, this normally vibrant woman became a shadow of herself and spent most of her time in bed. My sister packed up all mom’s belongings, sold her car, and paid all her expenses for moving to Minneapolis to live with us. At that point, we were without any children in the nest and it was the perfect place for her to recover (go through withdrawal.) While going through this she told my husband he needed to move out. She told me that I was an irresponsible daughter who was depriving her of her freedom. Eventually, she overcame her dependence on opioids and started to live again – enjoying her great grandchildren, grandchildren and us. One year later she was able to live independently again until she passed away.
Times change, but allegiance to our parents doesn’t. When things like this happen, we step up to the plate when we can and give back some of what was given to us as children. Being your parent’s parent isn’t easy, but with God’s help, it can be done.
The older we get, the more we resist change, but I’m certain that will be the case until we die. One thing we can count on to always be the same is our God. His consistency will get us through all things.