Last week I talked about the things we will do for our children – essentially the power that our love for our children will teach us to do. On the other side of our lives are our parents. Parents too do more teaching than simply the words they speak – do your homework, don’t tease your sister, stand up straight, tell the truth, be respectful of your teachers. Parents demonstrate love, sacrifice, devotion. In doing so, we see how to be better people. We love and respect them; we hope to emulate them. In a healthy parent – adult child relationship each person understands the limits. The adult child must make their own decisions about child-rearing, religious observance, family balance. But after these decisions are made, and hopefully respected, we can have compassion for our parents sense of loss when our choices are not theirs. The grandchild who will not be raised in the same religion as the grandparent, the child who chooses to convert from their birth faith, the family that no longer spends certain holidays with the grandparents – these are painful and unexpected losses for our parents.
What can we do?
Remember to express love and respect.
“Mom, my love for you will never fade.”
“Dad, I hope to be as good a dad as you have been to me.”
Affirm what is good, sincere, decent, and honorable about your parents. Point out the things that they taught you and tell them how you value those things.
“Grandma, I really and truly learned to stop and smell the roses from you. Remember when we walked past that big climbing rosebush in front of the hardware store and you said, smell this! I learned to value every bit of nature from you.”
Let them know that you carry a part of them in you. Give them a hug, a kiss, a handwritten card. All these can ease a parent’s fear that they are losing you. In years to come you will be glad you took a moment to express your love.