Shouldn't elderly parents always be focused on what is best for their adult children?

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In a recent discussion here on this website, the above question was raised by an adult child. In the name of "love" this sounds like a noble thought at first. I would like to address it here and open it up for others to consider.

Historically, our nation's culture and legal system was based on tenets of the Bible such as the Ten Commandments. One of those commandments is, "Honor your father and mother that your days may be long on the land which the Lord your God has given you." It is the first commandment with a promise attached. If we honor our parents (culturally), it will result in a longer life in our homeland. (I recognize that this promise was given to the Jews by God. But it just as easily could be applied to all of us. There is something special about honoring our parents. It doesn't mean we have to always agree with them, of course.)

I have observed that life seems to be like the seashore, the waves coming in against the shore, and then leaving again, over and over. Cycles or seasons of life, so to speak. You may have heard or read another verse in the Bible: "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Our lives seem to have seasons or cycles, such as: a time to be born, a time to be dependent and be nourished by others, a time to grow physically and mentally, a time to give and contribute and struggle, a time to look inward, a time to be dependent again, a time to let go.

No one likes to be dependent on others as an adult. Aged parents don't want to be dependent on their children, nor do we want to admit that we need their help. And adult children are in the thick of life trying to raise a family, build a career or at least hold down a job to support their families, etc. BUT life has a different plan and, more often that not, interrupts our preconceived ideas and forces us to confront ourselves.

Nothing on this earth is permanent, except perhaps, love. So, through the various seasons of our lives, where does love fit in? What does it look like? What does it do? How does it act and think? What is life demanding of us? How do we respond? What are our responsibilities through and within each stage of our lives and the lives of those we say we love? And finally, are we willing to grow? Are we willing to be responsive, to be molded and changed, even into our old age?

And the final question might be: "What's it all about, Alfie?" What is the purpose of life, of living?

If we do not confront these questions in our culture, society, and within ourselves, we will eventually become more like Nazi Germany was prior to and during WWII, preferring to euthanize the elderly, the weak, the sick among us rather than learn the deeper lessons of life waiting to be revealed to us.

I have learned that sometimes love has to be tough; more often, it requires great patience, endurance, effort, and forgiveness.

What say you?

13 Comments

I say No.

Parents are responsible for children while they are children. When children grow up, we are all adults and the love and responsibility goes both ways. Elderly people (like me) should be focused on what is best for us, for our children, for our grandchildren, for the homeless, for people with diseases ... lots of focuses are available to and important for persons beyond the time they raised children.

People lucky enough to have reached an adult-to-adult relationship with their parents don't expect this exclusive focus.
jeannegibbs, I agree with you totally. It is infantile for adult children to continue to expect their aging parents to put them first. We were compelled to let them go when they left home and demanded to make decisions on their own. What makes them think it is our duty to continue to put them first. I love the way you put it. Our culture is like our leaders, totally narcissistic and infantile. Well, said, dear lady.
Biologically speaking, a parent should remain focused on the needs of their offspring. For most people, their only contribution to the future of humanity is in the offspring they leave. The offspring, in turn, produce their own offspring. The greater the investment in the offspring, the greater the chance that they will succeed and leave more grand-offspring. IOW, one's own personal "fitness" will increase, since more offspring will be left. Parents who instead take away from the resources of their young lower the potential of the young to invest in their own children.

It is a bit more complicated than this simple biological consideration, as we know. Often the person called upon to be a caregiver for an elder is post-reproductive. Because of this, it does not pull him/her away from marriage or children, even though it does often put the person's livelihood in jeopardy. Considering this I would say that a parent should consider only the child when the child is building a life and family. I do not like it when I hear a young person is not marrying, having children, or pursuing a career in order to take care of a parent. That sacrifice is far too much, IMO.

If a child is beyond the reproductive age, there needs to be balance. Too often the elder swallows the child and the child becomes unimportant. This is total nonsense. A parent cannot expect that much of a child, and if there is love and respect for the child, will not ask it. Here we get into a problem of the narcissism that accompanies old age for many people.

The thing in the Bible about honoring the father and the mother is very vague. We don't know what honoring is. Does it mean to make them proud? Does it mean to obey? Does it mean to sacrifice your life to them? There is no indication of exactly what it means. Personally I think we honor our parents by growing up and living a good life. We make them proud. That is honor. In biblical days, the responsibility of elder care passed to the eldest son, who also inherited the birthright. We don't see this happen anymore.

Now... after all this writing I really have to say that I agree with Jeanne.
BTW, that was a huge subject. Forgive the gigantic leaps in the writing.
I do, too, JessieBelle (agree with Jeanne that is.) An adult-to-adult relationship between parent and child is the desired outcome, based on mutual love and respect. But that is not always possible either. And at best, it is an extremely stress-filled time for all, especially the primary caregiver, which I have been x2. Thank you for your valuable input.
My son was stopped to make a left turn on his motorcycle a month ago when a driver looking at a map on his cellphone ran into him, bounced him off the car hood and threw him 80 feet. Son has been in a hospital then a rehab center and is hoping to go home (without being able to stand up yet) later this week.

He has been my major focus for the last month.

I just talked to a certified diabetes educator about my erratic blood sugar levels. I described the stress in my life right now. I told her that I will be spending the weekdays at my son's house while his wife teaches, for a couple of weeks. By that time he MIGHT be able to be weight bearing on his legs and that will change the situation. She asked me what I would do if Son still needed someone with him beyond the two weeks. I told her "Then I will tell them they need to hire someone to do that." She said, "Good! I understand your need to help him and his desire to have his mommy with him, but there has to be a limit to balance your health needs."

Yup.

I am making some sacrifices for him. He needs me for a limited time. I expect that other adults in our family will make some sacrifices for me as I need them. (They have and do.) But all adults have many focuses in their lives, and it is not fair or appropriate, in my opinion, to expect one adult to give his or her own life to focus exclusively on another adult. Not a parent for a child, and not a child for a parent. Not a spouse for a spouse -- although this is the relationship that should have the strongest claim. We made it freely and assumed responsibilities regarding sickness and health, etc. Even in that relationship it is healthy to seek a balance.
{{{jeannegibbs}}} Praying for your son's complete recovery!

I agree with everything said. We walk a fine line at times with so many family dynamics. It truly is all about balance!
Exactly, Jeanne -- in other words, solely focusing on one person (parent/child, child/parent/, spouse/spouse) to the extent that one person's life is greatly diminished over a long span of time, to the extent that the other's health suffers, or finances, etc -- to put it in practical terms, it simply isn't sustainable. It's not a good 'business model'. I think having a healthy life, with healthy relationships, means taking an approach that is ultimately sustainable and respectful of all parties.
Oneofthem to even imply that American culture will become like the Nazi's in regard to our elderly is so insulting. Religion will not resolve the elderly issues in today's society. The problem is modern medicine is able to keep the body alive way into the elderly years, except the brain. How cruel is it for an elderly individual to live in an empty existence due to Alzheimer/dementia.
Debralee, I do not intend to insult my country. I just warn. Speaking personally, my mother died at 92 with A.D. I am grateful for every moment I had to hold her hand and just be with her. It's been nearly nine years. I still miss her greatly. That hasn't diminished. I think we really can't say that every one with Alzheimer's has an "empty existence." She could respond to my love, even though she may or may not have realized it was me. She responded to love. That's all I can say.

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