Being a parent naturally causes us to look forward. We are constantly thinking of the life our children will have and trying to find ways to make it better. Sometimes we go to great lengths to insure (or so we think) that our kids will have more than we did. As part of this process, most of us look back at our childhood and reflect on what we liked and what we didn’t like. This forms our baseline for how we raise our kids.
As part of my process, I consult my parents. I talk to them about their motives and experiences as my parents and then compare those to my experiences and thoughts. 9 times out of 10, those memories are completely different. My mother remembers an experience that she thought would scar me for life while I have no recollection of said event. So what’s the point? As a parent now, I do my best to be easy about life. I know that my kids will have totally different memories than I do and that each child will remember different things than the other.
Throughout this process, my parents’ mortality has become more obvious than in years past. I am fortunate that my parents are still in very good health so I haven’t had to face the task of caring for them physically but our relationship has changed. My parents have been divorced since I was 3 so I have very different relationships with both of them but each in their own way, our relationships have changes into friendships. This is an amazing asset for me and I hope my children. In this friendship though, I find myself doing a bit of parenting to my parents. My definition of parenting is very broad though in that it’s more counseling than “parenting”. I don’t scold my parent but I don’t scold my children either. When either of them are facing a problem, I talk to them to see what their desired outcome is then we work together to get to that outcome.
I’ve seen my parents handle my grandparents aging process and their ups and downs. When I was younger, I worked in a nursing home and I saw that as we get older, we tend to revert back to our childhood. My grandmother had dementia and I saw once again her process of reverting back to her childhood. The further her disease progressed, the younger she became mentally. I think this happens to most of us if we had a disease or not. The cycle of life is always an ebb and flow. Just like breathing we start out young and as time passes we get older. As more time passes we get younger again until we go back to the place we were before we were born.
So lately I’ve been asking myself, how do we parent our parents? The answer for me is just like I parent my children. This has helped me refine my parenting to my kids even more because I know that one day, they will be parenting me too. The way I interact with my parents is how they will someday interact with me. This is not a new concept but for me, it gives me a new perspective. I parent my kids with attachment theory always in mind so why would I parent my parents any differently. My goal with my kids is to always retain the attachment relationship so as my parents get older, that will continue to be my goal with them. I treat my children with respect for their physical and emotional space so I will continue to do that with my parents. As my parents age, I may find them reverting back to their youth. I only hope that I can raise them with the same grace and dignity that they raised me.

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