Have you noticed that your aging parents seem to be expressing themselves more honestly and openly than they did in the past? That was my experience, and now my friends are noticing the same pattern. I’ll let you in on five things my parents and grandmother shared with me — things my friends’ parents are now sharing with them. The odds are good that these are some of the same things you’ll hear from your parents, too.
1. “I appreciate all you do, and I feel a little guilty.”
This was a recurring theme with my mother. A near-fatal auto accident and, later, a shattered ankle and foot left her bedridden for about a year. While I was glad to be able to care for her during this time, she was frustrated by her lack of control of the situation. After repeatedly trying to reassure her, I started to ignore her chatter and went about my business. As you reach out to support your parents, you might meet with some resistance. Don’t let their guilt add to your emotional toll.
2. “I want you to have a life.”
An extension of the guilt I mentioned above, it doesn’t matter how many times you tell your parents, “But I do have a life” — they simply won’t listen. Never mind that I was a flight attendant who sometimes flew halfway around the world, or that other times I was off somewhere teaching a software course or consulting with a client. My parents were worried that I had no life because I spent my few remaining hours as a caregiver. They didn’t understand that the flying, consulting, and training restored my sanity, kept me balanced, and was fun!
3. “I still worry about you.”
Being a parent is forever. The best response to your aging parents’ worries is to be thankful that they still care so deeply about you. You’re not going to change this — no one can. Instead, let your parents know in your own way that you love them and appreciate everything they want for you.
4. “I want you to know about your heritage and appreciate your roots.”
Everything you didn’t want to know as a kid, you probably want to know now. Thankfully, your parents are going to share it with you — in great detail. You’ll hear Ellis Island stories, tales about assimilating into American culture, and maybe even World War II or Vietnam stories. You’ll learn about protests, marches, sit-ins, smoke-ins, love-ins, and all those other extracurricular “in” activities that shaped their lifestyles.
5. “I want to share our family secrets.”
These are your rewards for all you’re doing for your aging parents. When the trickle turns into an avalanche, you’ll want to grab a digital recorder. You’ll learn about arranged marriages, shotgun weddings, children born out of wedlock, affairs, murders, deception, and intrigue worthy of a Netflix series. Take notes, because you won’t find the best of this information on Ancestry.com!
So how do the stories and concerns of my parents compare to those from your parents? No matter their content, these moments of true confession are bonding experiences you won’t want to miss. I can tell you from experience that once your aging parents are gone, you’ll fondly remember these chats for the rest of your life. For more information about things your parents might want you to know, check out this article by Linda Bernstein.