There was an article in Tuesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal about “helicopter” children: children who are overly worried about their aging parents, who hover, and who take control of their parents’ affairs (to varying degrees). Or, as I see it, children who treat their parents like adolescents or perhaps even grade-school kids.
I’ve seen it in action. And I hate it. That said, I understand intervention is sometimes necessary and appropriate. Sometimes the mind is too far gone. Or the body has given out. But a child’s response to such situations isn’t helicoptering; it’s necessity.
Helicoptering isn’t a necessity; it’s a choice. Usually if not always, it’s the product of sincere concern about a parent’s physical welfare. “You might fall.” “You might leave the stove on.” Etc. Etc. Implicit in many of the comments is this question: What might happen if you’re left to your own devices?
The WSJ article quoted a man whose daughter harbored such concerns. She wanted her father to move in with her. She was afraid her dad would fall. But he told her that falling down in his own home was as “good a way to go as he could imagine.” Eventually, he did fall and die. But at least he kept his independence and preserved his dignity. At least he got to choose.
When I see children treat their aging parents like children, I just want to say, “It’s their life. Leave them live it as they wish.” But I don’t. It’s not my business.
But it might be my business some day. I might be the one who’s frail. Or who isn’t hitting on all cylinders (cognitively). Or who wants to do something my sons think is unwise. If that day comes, I hope they appreciate that, so long as I have my wits about me, it’s my life to live.
Similarly, I know they have their lives to live. And I don’t want to encumber them by living with them.
It’s a personal choice. I have no problem with children who want their parents to live with them, or with aging parents who want to live with their children. Each to his own. It’s just that it’s not my cup of tea.
I know I’d be a burden. An intrusion. Even if they didn’t see it. Or feel it. And that’s not what I want.
I want to be free as long as possible. Even if the price to be paid for that freedom is an earlier curtain call — earlier than what might have occurred if I’d existed in a cloistered environment.
I hope my sons aren’t the kind of people who think the most important thing in life is longevity. Or who think it’s a tragedy when people die of natural causes.
It isn’t. It’s just the way it is. Our bodies and minds eventually fail. There is nothing tragic about it.
There is a time for everything. A natural order. And it doesn’t include watering down my wine. (See the WSJ article.)
P.S. According to the Pew Research Center, a record 64 million Americans live in multigenerational households — a full 20 percent of the population.