The Parent Is the Parent and the Child Is the Child

I am the one responsible. Not my boys. I’m the parent. They’re my children. And that’s the way it is.

The thing I dislike most about old age (not that I’m there yet) is role reversal, when parents become child-like and children become paternalistic and maternalistic towards their parents. I particularly dislike it when parents seem to think they’re owed something from their children.

My boys owe me nothing. And neither do you, Vera (as my sole grandchild). I am the parent. I am the grandparent. I’m the responsible party. And that’s the way it should be. Until I die.

That doesn’t mean I would never accept help from my kids. What it does mean, however, is that I hope never to feel entitled to help. Or, for that matter, their attention.

I’ve seen parents become resentful towards their children. Or start to pity themselves because their kids don’t visit or call often enough. Phooey, I say.

If there isn’t sufficient contact and communication, then pick up the damn phone yourself or get in the car, train, or plane and visit. Or take your kids to dinner. Show some interest in their lives. In their struggles. In their joys. Celebrate with them. Laugh. Be the person they want to see more often.

A friend says his mother complains about her grandkids. She never sees them or hears from them, she says. He’s not sympathetic. He knows his mother has shown little or no interest in her grandkids’ lives.

The day may come when I feel lonely. Or forgotten by my boys. But to the extent that is happening or may happen, I hope I never forget that it’s on me. If they don’t want to see me or talk to me, then it’s time for a little self-reflection. It’s not time to lash out or to whine. Or for self-pity.

More than once in my lifetime I’ve heard someone sing the praise of a child who calls his or her mother every week. But I can’t remember ever hearing the same about a parent who calls his or her child every week. I wonder why.

I suppose it’s not always easy for a parent to see his or her child go off into the world and become independent. Some parents may see it as the child “not needing them” any more. But is “need” the point?

I know that some parents think their kids are ungrateful or don’t care. That they’re selfish. Yet I wonder if such emotions have any place in the parent-child relationship.

I love your dad more than words can describe and enjoy spending time with him, Vera. He’s a remarkable young man, and I’m glad he turned out the way he did. He’s a remarkable dad, too. You’re fortunate.

I hope we see a lot of each other for years to come. But I hope I never think he owes me anything. And I mean anything. And I hope that if our time spent together dwindles, I never think it’s his fault. Or that it reflects poorly on him.

He’s a good man, and there is absolutely nothing he owes me. Which is fine by me. Meanwhile, I just want to continue to love him. And accept his love. Without any expectations. Or feelings of entitlement.

That’s more than enough. Far more.

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