Bringing Up Parents

Saturdays with Shivani

As kids, I vaguely recall a comic strip titled ‘Bringing up Parents’ that my sister and I used to enjoy. Google failed to throw up any clue. The closest it showed was, ‘Bringing up Father’ so maybe we just took the liberty of renaming it to serve our purpose.

Since we were the ones who were being ‘brought up’, at that time this phrase sounded funny and oddly empowering too. Now all these years later we are mulling over the gravity of it.

With the joint family tradition fading out fast and children moving to different corners of the world, our parents’ generation needs to decide what they want to do with their time. In our grandparents’ times retirement often meant moving in with children, taking care of grandkids, trying to make themselves useful and relevant around the house. If they failed in these endeavours, they tried to make peace with the circumstances which often brought grief and bitterness in its wake.

With changing times, better life expectancy (and hopefully healthier too) and an ever-evolving parent-child equation, we ought to be doing a better job than that. One thing is pretty clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this. There are quite a handful of people I know who, given a choice, may have a plan. Some want to see the world while they still can and then there are those who would like to read all those books that they have been stacking up in their TBR list. There are some who are happy to tend to their flowers while others want to explore the Vipassana retreat that a brochure they chanced upon mentions.  

We are increasingly talking about how we need to give our children their space and the freedom of choice. It’s time we do that with our parents too. Often when we impose ourselves, it is coming from a place of concern for their well-being (and sometimes our convenience too) but does it give us a license to smother them and bulldoze their wishes. The way we are rewiring our parenting circuits and stepping back to allow our children to discover what they want I think we have to reinvent ourselves as children too.

All parenting manuals are advocating us to trust our children with their choices. How can we stop short on that when it comes to our parents? As my parents and my mother-in-law grow older, I am increasingly resolving to respect their choices and their individuality. As a child I have absolutely no right to curb either of that.

This serves as a good wake up call for us as well because it wouldn’t be too long before we would be facing these questions ourselves. I understand fully that whatever the plan be, our parents’ (or ours), it hinges heavily on health- both physical and financial. Next opportunity, lets sit our parents down and have ‘the talk’.

As we sit and write down our manual on bringing up parents, it is my sincere prayer for everyone that may they know what they want and have the means to achieve it.

Dr. Shivani Salil