One remarkable opportunity of aging is the chance to develop whole new relationships with your adult children. A mature, loving friendship between a parent and an adult child is a gift filled with mutual support, familiarity, and affection. Sharing your adult lives, interests, and philosophies can bring a new richness to your time together. In today’s blog to both seniors and their adult children, I’d like to remind you of some of the reasons the parent-child relationship is so valuable.
1 – Continuity. Families share fond (and not so fond!) memories spanning the life of the children, from birth through infancy, toddler years, adolescence and beyond. During these years, both parent and child underwent often-drastic changes in roles and identity. The family members held in common accomplishments, losses, adventures, new homes and old cars, pets, all of which reside now in shared long-term memories. No one else knows that whole story.
2 – Mutual support. Senior parents sacrificed in youth for their children, and adult children learn to sacrifice for their elderly parents’ sake. The infant brought hope and enjoyment to the parent’s life, and the aging parent will bring wisdom and happiness to the adult. It is a trade-off of sacrifice and gain, revealing the basic reason that you support each other: you do it for love.
3 – Friendship. Many adult children find, after contentious years of youth have passed, that their parents are actually pretty cool. They have done amazing feats that the children probably ignored – now is a chance for the child to appreciate them. Parents, too, in their senior years, may learn that they can let go of the need to protect and control their children. Adult children of elders can be surprisingly competent and intelligent, if for no other reason than that you raised them that way.
4 – Generations pass the torch. Adult children gain wisdom and time-tested knowledge from seniors, of course, but also something else that is equally important: they gain a greater understanding of the potential for their own elder years. Many seniors find that freedom from work and social demands lead to greater creativity and broader modes of thinking. As Robert Browning wrote, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be: the last of life for which the first was made.” By watching and helping your senior parent to “seize the day” in his later years, you are learning skills for your own future. One day, when you pass these skills along to your children, you will truly understand their immense value.
Whether it is Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or just a regular day, remember that the cycle of life stages across generations is the foundation for human society. Honor the parent-child bond, and appreciate its value while you still can.