We have learned a lot through caring for aging parents. We learned there is a time for everything under the sun, a time to gather and a time to let go.
We also realized that we need to do a better job of open communication with our adult children in the event that we live with them for any length of time.
This is written to give our adult children permission to move us with care, for our care… and theirs.
Jesus’ own example:
Jesus’ own example was to instruct His disciples to take care of His mother when He told them, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, John took her into his home” (John 19:27)
Further, Jesus had a hard conversation with the lawyers of His day on the topic of looking for some loop-hole to get out of legitimate familial obligations:
You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’
But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let people do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. (Mark 7)
To Our Adult Children:
Caring for parents is an expression of what it means to “honour your father and mother.” This can be costly in many ways, and there is no doubt that our care for you in your formative years was costly and profound as well. But this does not mean you owe us the kind of care that you owe your children. There is a way to keep our welfare that also integrates caring for you and your family.
You’ve been caught in the cross currents of two cultures: one that can tend to be too enmeshed with family – and – the other that can tend to be too dislocated from family. As a man from a western European culture, some of my peers wanted to make a saint out of me for having my wife’s parents live with us; of course this was simply living according to south Indian expectations, and we were happy to do that. We all lived together for a time, and we learned something from the experience. Therefore, listen to us in this matter:
It’s time to move us with care:
- When we negatively affect your marriage
- When we are constantly on your minds
- When you are managing to avoid us
- When our negativity/complaining is negatively affecting you
- When we start forgetting to turn off the stove and take our medications
- When you feel that conversations with us are going nowhere
- When you have to majorly renovate your home to accommodate us living with you (and it costs more than you can afford)
- When you feel tied to the house and can’t seem to get away
- When taking care of us is more demanding than taking care of your own children
- When taking care of us means you are not taking care of yourselves
When any of these things are happening – it’s time to remind us of the thoughts we had when we were able-minded – when we contemplated them thoughtfully & prayerfully in the course of taking care of our own parents… and then it’s time to start the process of transferring us into another kind of attentive home.
How to Honour and Care:
I suspect some will disagree with us on this; some might think it is self-contradictory to say it honours their parents by moving them into a better care facility. But having been through this, we know that relationships do not end at the threshold of a care facility – it simply changes the setting in which one holds on to and releases parents to inevitability.
You do not honestly honour your parents when you do not truly care for yourselves as a couple or neglect your children. It is not wise to steal from your children’s future to pay for your parent’s past.
I suspect it takes all the wisdom and grace you can find to both honour your parents and take care of all the people you love.
That is why we write this now to our own adult children – to release them from being yoked with false expectations in order to truly care for us and for themselves.