Parenting Our Parents

PARENTS WILL BE PARENTS

Papa : Beta, I will be fine, don’t worry.

Me : But papa, why do you need to go when we can order it online. It’s covid times and I don’t want you to go. We will manage. Maybe I can get the groceries.

Papa : Nahi beta, Main yun gaya aur yun aaya. Tum meri itni chinta na kiya karo.

Our conversation ends, and while putting my efforts in vain, he leaves. I am perplexed by his carelessness. The next moment I see lots of vegetables being brought into the house in abundance.

Be it Covid times or otherwise, my concern about my parents keeps rising. Today when you have technology at your fingertips to help you get almost everything delivered at home and make you pay bills online, your 60 odd years old parents might still want to sneak out and go out in the scorching heat to run the errands physically. Why — because it’s their style and they cannot give it up! When you confront them, they’d just have a sheepish smile and might even get away with no useful answer. Enthusiasm is good but to an extent. Not at the cost of their health and well-being. Especially when it’s time to relax and be free like birds.

Photo by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash

All parents are different, while some might be arguing or hustling with the local vendors/subziwala for a better price, there’re others who start believing and implementing whatever hacks that come their way, whether it’s to get rid of grey hair or any pain-relieving desi nuskhe. Sometimes even bogus news is spread as a fact when it is travelling through their network and channels! Like my mom told me last week about the passing away of a famous Indian celebrity (she got to know on some whatsapp group), which on crosschecking, I found to be false, thankfully. Incidentally, this person happens to be one of my favourites, so I was distraught initially, only to breathe a sigh of relief later. Phheeww!

Now there are few things they do unknowingly and innocently. And it’s fine too. But there are some situations where they behave carelessly and put themselves in a vulnerable spot. Things they encounter may be harmful or hurtful. Like falling prey to some scamster or fraudster while they are being nice to him. Or a deteriorating health issue. Instances like these make me worry about my parents and I have to make dozens of video calls to them to make sure they’re okay. I wonder — Is it “my” paranoia or “their” careless nature that makes me tensed? Sometimes I have to push back my own priorities to “explain things” to them. For them.

But the question is have the roles actually reversed? Have they become childlike while I have grown up? Am I overreacting or do they really need help?

Let’s do a trip down memory lane.

THE PARENT-CHILD BOND

I remember the tales of the time when I was little.

My mom used to lovingly feed the 2–3 years old me the most amazing and yummy namak ki pronthi (that’s the smaller version of parantha) dipped in oodles of ghee, while my papa used to make me smile and giggle by revolving the little me seated on his palm(in case you’re wondering, that’s possible!).

Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

Then while growing up, papa used to make it a point to take us to have my favourite pineapple ice cream every week. And sometimes the frequency was even higher, based on my demands. Whenever I wanted to buy a new pen, or those fancy erasers — sometimes cute and sometimes weird & nonsensical, I always used to make innumerable trips to the stationery shops with him.

What a time it was! Thinking about those little moments always brings a smile to my face. I’m sure that by now, you would be recalling memories from your own childhood. The parent-child bond is like that. Along with being your first teachers, parents are the first set of friends that you get. That feeling of being protected and cared for remains unmatched.

IT IS TIME FOR A ROLE REVERSAL

Fast forward to today. I am the one taking care of them. No, I am not saying that they don’t or can’t do that themselves. But because I love them. Being an adult myself, now I feel it’s my responsibility to be on the other side. I feel protective of them. I get easily perturbed and anxious about their health. I want them to enjoy life and feel loved. Just the way they made me feel when I was little.

It’s not just about love and care, but also responsibility. From spending more time with them to taking care of their health, whether it’s taking up their tasks physically or assisting them mentally, trying to help them in each possible way is a routine for me now. More than ever. There are times that I enjoy with them, but a part of me is silently worried that they should be safe and sound. It makes me wonder sometimes if I want to have control over their lives. But for good, right? Or is it a sign of possessiveness?

Maybe, because they are getting old and this feeling is something that I am still absorbing. I love them and just want the best for them. However, first and foremost they are individuals. And every individual should be given space. So it’s a tough call.

It’s not as rosy and simple. Sometimes we end up in a scuffle and other times I even hesitate to explain things to them. I feel something about them has changed. Or so it appears to me? I find them to be somewhat impatient, impractical, and sometimes irrational. They become adamant at times which makes it impossible to address things. They behave unreasonably and I get a strong urge to correct them. Maybe it’s that phase of life when parents become kids and kids become parents.

If you have read so far, chances are high that you have also felt and experienced the same.

Let’s find out why does it all happen and what I did to deal with it.

THE TRANSITION

As we grow, a shift happens. The surroundings change and responsibilities shift from parents to children. As children enter into adulthood, their responsibilities increase — they need to step into their parents’ shoes, be the bread earner and take care of health and other things. Educating and enlightening elders is another aspect of the shift. For example, our parents have seen instant messaging like WhatsApp come in, but their parents hadn’t even seen telephones and mobile phones come in. So gradually when things change, the younger generation is the one that takes charge and becomes the guiding light for their elders. It’s a natural transition.

While the enlightening part is very much doable, the caretaking is where it gets tedious. For instance, it has been easier for me to have my father move to an advanced smartphone but it took me months to get him to adhere to his medication properly. Many times both parties struggle to find a common ground and are unable to be on the same page. Leading to no outcome and more tension. The truth is the circle of life — As we grow up and become adults, our parents become childlike. As the saying goes —

“Baccha boodha ek barabar”

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT?

While parents might be unreceptive towards the newness, children too find it hard to swallow these changes and feel stressed and confused. Sometimes parents won’t listen and might even laugh at you being suddenly all adult-sy.

This phase can be a little taxing and might result in stressful conversations between you and your parents. Many parents have a closed-door approach. That said, it also needs to be considered that sometimes these issues arise due to the generation gap, where nobody can help. But this is something even they would have experienced with their parents. And that is normal.

In my journey in Parenting My Parents so far, there are a few things that I have learnt and collectively, they have become a kind of go-to toolkit that helps me cope whenever I run into heavy situations or need to counsel them. Sharing them below :

  • It’s important to understand that YOU CAN’T FIX EVERYTHING. Some things are individualistic and nobody has control over those. So better to accept them.
  • GIVE SPACE AND HAVE SPACE. Understand human nature and try to have a breather at times. Do not try to change things beyond the limit
  • HAVE PATIENCE. The more patient you are, the more the understanding will be.
  • DO NOT OVERDO. Be it your love, concern, or instructions. This will allow them to see your wisdom.
  • DON’T BE A CONTROL FREAK. Fill your folks in with inputs only to a level they easily understand and can gulp.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Ultimately there is no right or wrong to deal with such situations. In fact, it’s more of a combination of being practical and understanding. Sometimes it’s best to leave things and go with the flow. Constant nagging is bound to drive them crazy, and you as well. Try being at peace by absolutely being there for them, but not being always distressed. Find your own balance of love, words, and actions.

Worry less and do your best. Things will fall into place.

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