Tag Archives: parenting

The Nest is Empty Again

The Full Team

Two years ago, our youngest son came home to live with us while he attended graduate school at nearby Vanderbilt University. Around the same time, our daughter returned to town to take a job and while she didn’t live with us, she lived near us, and we were able to see her regularly. It was my dream: to have one of my kids live in the same city, but not in the same house.

Flash forward one pandemic later, and both have now moved on, leaving our nest empty once more. My daughter has moved back to our hometown of Los Angeles to pursue her dream job and our son is heading off to New York City to find his next adventure. Our middle son has lived in San Francisco for several years now and shows no sign of returning for more than a visit. But you never really know…

It’s hard to explain the rollercoaster of emotions as our young adult children swing back and forth between our home base and the world beyond. Each move brings adjustments to our relationships and just when I think I’m used to the status quo, things change again. I admit freely that I have a hard time turning off the “Mom Button.” In fact, it’s probably never really off, just on idle, always ready to rev back up as needed for a phone call, text, email or a visit.

The goodbyes are the hardest. The ride to the airport feels like a last-minute rush to say all the things I’m afraid I didn’t say and yet, we make small talk to make it seem like just another normal drive. When we hug, I want to hold on to the baby that still lives in my heart and my memory, but I know I must let go of the adult who stands in front of me. During the ride home I feel empty and full at the same time. My arms are empty, but my heart is full of love and pride for the people they are.

I’ve heard it said that if we do our job as parents, they will leave. They will have the tools they need to live independent, productive, meaningful lives. I know it’s true, but it’s still hard. I have always loved having a front row seat to the best show in the world, watching my children grow up. Well, that show is over and now I get to watch from the wings as they take center stage in their own lives. And let me tell you, it’s a really great show.

So, here I am again, putting parts of the house back together after our son created his own little upstairs bachelor pad. It’s a good time to re-evaluate how we will continue to live in our home, to reclaim it for ourselves and decide what will be relegated to storage or trash and what will remain. I admit I’m looking forward to a little more calm; young men expend a surprising amount of energy just entering a room! I look forward to less laundry, smaller food bills, a neater kitchen. I will miss having our own in-house DJ on Sunday mornings, and personal tech support when I need it. I have loved chatting with my son over lunch, watching reruns of our favorite TV shows and movies. Like many people, we have a mountain of completed puzzles from our months stuck in the house and each one will remind me of this difficult, yet special time.

I guess the thing I think about the most is how lucky we are to have children who still like to come home and reconnect with us. Although we don’t live in their childhood house anymore, they have taught me that wherever we are together as a family is home and I look forward to gathering someday in one of their houses. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what comes next for all of us.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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The Leader of the Pack

How does our birth order influence our lives, our relationships, our personality, our parenting, our future?  I am the first born child, with two younger siblings.  My mother was an only child, and my father was the youngest of five.  I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking about birth order mainly because my parents made a point of impressing upon me the responsibility to take care of my sister and brother.  “Friends will come and go,” my mom would tell me, “but your siblings are forever.”  “Make sure you take your sister with you.”  “Hold your brother’s hand when you cross the street.”  “Always look out for your sister and brother.”  You get the picture. 

I have no recollection of the 18 months of my life before my sister was born, but I’m told my parents had a pretty good time with me.  So good, in fact, that they couldn’t wait to have another baby.  That was always their story and they stuck to it.  The new baby girl arrived, followed two years later by, “the boy.”  I do remember my parents bringing him home from the hospital all swaddled up.  “Watch the soft spot,” was the refrain for months as I awkwardly tried to sit with him on my tiny lap. 

I guess you could say I am a classic big sister.  Caregiving, bossy, driven, organized, high achieving.  I organized parades where I would sit in my brother’s red wagon, draped in a boa, tiara on my head, my brother gamely pulling me as I waved to the neighborhood.  I choreographed ballets for my sister and I to entertain our parents, clad in my mom’s old nightgowns.  And when my brother would get sick, I was obsessed with taking his temperature, bringing him toast and reading to him in bed. 

As the oldest, my developmental milestones and achievements were always the first for my parents.  And attention-loving drama queen that I am, I generally liked it.  I loved feeling grown up and couldn’t wait to, “get there.”  By the time I was 17, I’d graduated from high school, left for college and rarely looked back.  My summers were spent involved in theater companies, part time jobs, hanging at the beach with friends.  I got married right after college and never lived with my family again.  I guess you could say my early years were pretty standard for an L.A. girl growing up in the 1970s. 

This all sounds charming, right?  But underneath all that grooviness lurks a dark secret.  You see, I did enjoy being the oldest for all of the above reasons.  But I also hated it.  I hated the burden dumped on a little girl to always look out for the younger ones.  I hated not having any cover for my mistakes, so I just worked to avoid them.  I hated the assumption that my hard fought victories were preordained because I was the golden one.  I hated there not being much room for me, so growing up fast and leaving was the best option.  Most of all I hated not being allowed to rebel and act out like a normal kid.  “You’re older, you should know better.”  It’s all so exhausting. 

One time I asked my mom if my dad was happy his first born was a girl rather than a boy.  Her answer, “He was thrilled!  Big sisters are better at keeping the family together,” meant to be reassuring sounded to me like another assignment.  I spent years studying my mother’s techniques for entertaining and preparing holiday dinners.  I listened in on her conversations with my dad’s three older sisters for clues on how, exactly, I was supposed to keep us all together.  And when I became a mom to three children, I vowed not to put the same burden on my first born, also a girl.  Karma, right?

So here we are, all three of us in late middle age, our parents alive only in our memories.  I guess you could say I have lived up to my birthright.  I continue to try and keep the family together, to look out for my sister and brother.  We have aged, live in different parts of the country and each of us has been knocked around by life.  For one of us, life in general is a battle and the other two of us do our best to keep moving forward.  A very good therapist once told me it was time to fire myself from the job of being the Big Sister.  It’s hard to break the old patterns and often when I try, one of the two resists my effort to change, but I continue to work on that.  And while I now have a loving husband, amazing grown children and a circle of close friends, sometimes that little girl inside me just wants someone to take care of her. 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Be the Change

Okay, I did the one thing that, as a professional journalist, I swear never to do: I missed my deadline.  Yep, my day to post on this blog is the first Tuesday of each month.  I have almost never missed, but this week, I just can’t remember what day it is.  And while for the average reader it is surely not a major issue, for me it represents just how disoriented I am these days.  I’ve written about it before, but as the season is changing again, I am reminded of just how long we have all been dealing with the current pandemic.  The light through my window is different, the air feels crisper and when I run the few errands I must these days, the décor is focused on Thanksgiving and even Christmas!  How is that even happening again? 

There are other events that have served to keep me off kilter, as well.  The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, has triggered so many memories of my own mother.  The two women were born just a year apart.  Like RBG, my mother wanted to become a lawyer.  But while Ruth was cheered on by her parents and later, her husband, breaking down the barriers in her path, my mom was discouraged from following that path.  My grandfather, himself a judge and state legislator, felt the law would be a difficult profession for a woman of that time.  He wanted to protect my mother from the mistreatment he knew would come her way.  “Be a teacher,” he told her, “That’s a good profession for a nice Jewish girl.”  And so it was. 

My mother was a brilliant person and a gifted teacher.  She was a devoted wife and as a mother, well, there are no words to describe the depth and breadth of her love for her children.  And yet, I have always wondered if she didn’t harbor some regret about the path not taken.  In fact, one of her favorite poems was Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.”  She used to recite it to me, write it in birthday cards and reference it often.  When I would ask if she wished for some other life, some other story, her answer was always the same.  She was happy in her choice and dedicated to using her abilities to better her family and our community.  And she did amazing, wonderful things. She inspired not only her children at home, but countless children in her third grade classroom. 

Perhaps the question I should be considering is not whether she had regret, but rather whether she was fulfilled.  And whether fulfillment is not tied to any one thing but is a feeling that comes from satisfying one’s inner sense of purpose.  I believe my mother was wholly herself regardless of the task at hand or the job title.  She never wavered from living her values and sharing them with the world around her.  And while she didn’t change the world in big, revolutionary ways, she changed those in her sphere by being herself.

There is a famous quote, often attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  That was my mother. 

Oh, and make sure to wash your hands, wear a mask and VOTE!!!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Thanksgiving Reflections

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The house is finally quiet and empty.  Dishes are washed and put away, a load of laundry is in the wash and Bentley the Labradoodle is resting after a whirlwind visit from his humans.  I should be basking in the glow of a fun filled weekend with all of my family under one roof.  And while I am happy overall with the way things went, I admit I’m also a bit exhausted emotionally and physically.

This may be a surprise to those who know me well.  I pretty much wear my motherhood on my sleeve and long for those opportunities to spend time with my children.  But lately, I’ve come to realize that we’re all moving on in very different ways.  I still adore talking to my kids, in fact, they are the most interesting people I know.  I am constantly surprised and delighted to observe the way their lives are unfolding and to listen to their ideas about pretty much everything from politics to religion to sports, books, movies, etc.  We don’t always agree on things, but the exchange is always fun and often enlightening for me.  I learn from them and their experiences.

And yet, as exhilarating as it is to be together, the family dynamic in close quarters can leave me pretty wiped out.  Rather than a family of two parents and three children, we are now a family of five adults.  We have different habits when it comes to personal care, household chores and interpersonal relationships.  When we come together, we now bring baggage from our respective lives and try to blend during short, intense visits.  It’s easy to want to fall back into old roles, but we’ve all grown and changed and the old ways of being together don’t always work.  We have to re-learn how to interact and to be open and flexible with each other.  We also have to know when to give each other space.  It can be confusing and frustrating.

But there is one thing I know for certain, as I sit here unraveling the weekend: my family is worth the work.  And while it can be exhausting to navigate around each other, I am proud of the way my kids are living their dreams and changing the world around them.  I am inspired by their energy, enthusiasm and drive.  And frankly, they are a reminder that inside me is that newly formed adult bursting out into the future, eyes wide open and ready to go.  As I face the end of this year and look forward to the next one, I have only to look to them to feel myself renewed.  And I am so thankful for their presence in my life and for their journey passing through.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Time Change

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Sometimes I sit down to write and I’ve got nothing.  My mind is constantly spinning, but unless I feel something in my gut, the words just don’t come.  That appears to be the case today.  This past weekend we turned the clocks back and I guess I’m feeling uninspired and sluggish.  The view outside my window is actually lovely; blue sky, leaves finally turning coppery and softly fluttering in the breeze.  But it’s 2:00pm and already it feels like late afternoon rather than a bit after lunchtime.  Even Bentley, the labradoodle, feels it.  He’s dozing on the chair in my office, tail twitching every now and then.

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Every Fall it seems I experience this same sense of sadness when the clock changes.  Farewell to summer, to my vegetable garden, to the abundant daylight hours.  I know the coming weeks and months will be festive and fun, filled with holiday parties and celebrating a new year.  But today I just feel down.  Tonight, I will prepare the last of my beautiful summer eggplants and this weekend I will clean out the beds.  The other day I picked the last of the bell peppers and jalapenos for the season.  This year I planted a couple of beds with cool weather greens and they are doing well, but I already miss my fragrant tomatoes, the unruly squash and cucumbers.

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This year’s time change has brought other changes, too.  My daughter, newly returned from California, will soon be moving into her new condo.  I’m happy for her, glad she’ll have a new place to call her own.  But I’ll miss her comings and goings in my house.  A friend recently joked with me that we just can’t get rid of the adult children, and it’s true.  They cycle in and out as they transition from one thing to another.  But honestly, I’m happy they know our arms and our doors are always open when they need us.  Yes, it’s disrupting, but all things being equal, I’ll take this type of disruption any day of the week.  The fridge is fully stocked, the washing machine runs constantly, but I’m enjoying this short-term visit with my parenting past.

The shadows are growing longer and it’s still just mid-afternoon.  I know this feeling won’t last long.  In a couple of days, I’ll be used to this new season and have more energy to face the darker months.  But right now I’ll just watch the waning light outside my window and say a little farewell to summer.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Exercising My Superpower

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This past month has been eventful.  My husband and I celebrated a big anniversary with a Hawaiian vacation that included our three adult children.  The vacation was glorious, but traveling as a family of five adults is a challenge (although I’ll take the challenges over not being together any day of the week).  Added in was a recurrence of bursitis in my left arm that was painful and frustrating.  Our two-week sojourn also included a stay in Los Angeles, a drive up the coast to attend my niece’s wedding and a mad dash back to LAX for the return flight home.  And upon our return, our youngest son is now living with us while he attends graduate school.  Oh, and just before our trip, a leak in our upstairs HVAC resulted in drenched duct work and damage to the ceiling drywall.

I’m not complaining!  Well, actually, I’ve done a ton of complaining to my husband.  Thankfully he has very broad shoulders and has kept his cool.  Staying cool in the face of my emotional storms is one of his super powers.  And in the midst of the chaos, well maybe after some of it has passed, I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have a partner with truly superhuman patience.  In fact, sweetie, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), thank you.

And this week is my birthday, so there’s that.  I always feel a little melancholy around this time.  Every birthday since my parents passed is another reminder of what I’ve missed sharing with them.  I was so fortunate to have the kind of parents many kids long for.  They weren’t perfect by any means, but they were perfect for me.  They were my first teachers, my protectors and my biggest cheerleaders.  They loved me unconditionally and completely and they showed me how to do the same with my children.

Is there a lesson in all that has happened this past month?  I’m not sure.  Since last week, there have been three more mass shootings with little outrage coming from our nation’s lawmakers.  The erratic weather patterns around the world further highlight the threat to our planet.  And unstable and dangerous dictators in foreign countries threaten our nation’s democracy and safety.

One of my super powers is my ability to remain positive and optimistic in the face of life’s difficulties.  Right now, my powers aren’t as strong as they usually are.  But I will offer this: all of the current challenges we face are proof of our humanity.  What distinguishes us from other life forms and from machines is our resilience in the face of pain and tragedy and our ability to learn and grow from our mistakes and the misdeeds of others.  I am hopeful that our common humanity will give us the strength we all need to work together to find solutions and to honor our differences.  I believe it is our ability to love that elevates us and allows us to see the humanity in each other.

And when I feel really down, I head out to my summer garden and revel in nature’s creations and take pride in my accomplishments there.  This year, my sunflowers haven’t worked out as I’d like.  But I’ve had a bumper crop of squash, peppers and cucumbers.  Tomatoes are still going strong and I’m anxiously awaiting some eggplants to ripen.  More lessons learned.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Freedom and Happiness

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As I sit here writing this post, the sound of beautiful music is wafting down from my upstairs loft and the grand piano that mostly sits silent.  Today however the piano’s owner, my son, is visiting and finally the keys have sprung to life once again.  This background of music has been constant in our lives since the boy was four years old when my mother, a pretty good musician herself, bought us our first upright piano and signed him up for music classes.  Every Saturday morning, she and my dad would pick up our son and take him to the class, participate with him and return with instructions for the week’s practicing.  This cycle continued for a few years until he was old enough for private lessons and then I would dutifully drop him off.  And so it went until he could drive himself and finally, upon high school graduation, he transitioned to a university music conservatory.

My parents are not alive anymore to witness the flame that grew from those early lessons.  But when I hear my son play, I feel connected to them.  Both were musical, albeit in different ways.  My mom loved the structure of sitting at the piano.  My dad was whimsical and loved the tactile sensation of picking up a clarinet, a banjo, a concertina and would often bring some new, unusual instrument home to show us.  Even a harmonica delighted him and he’d run it between his lips, a twinkle in in eye, and try to teach us the same technique.

My son also spent several years with a violin, but it was the piano that had staying power for him and now, it is his life’s work.  We’ve watched and listened as he grew from a tiny boy whose feet couldn’t even touch the floor pedals, into a man towering over the keys.  When he plays his body sways with the music, his feet move confidently over the pedals and his green eyes blaze with energy.

Years ago, I asked my son how he feels when he plays the piano.  He told me it felt like he was flying and that he is happy when he plays.  I interpreted the flying as a feeling of freedom.  Freedom and happiness; what more could a mother want for her child?  What more could anyone want for themselves?  As we head into Independence Day 2019, I wish for all of you, freedom and happiness.  I wish that for our country and for our planet.

 

And, here’s the latest update from my garden:

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Farm to table zucchini bread

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About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Parenting Our Parents

When did it happen? At exactly what point did the tables turn? Did I see it coming? Yes, I know my mother ended up with a horrible outcome from what was supposed to be a relatively “simple” surgery, and that has resulted in her dependence on my sister and me, but I don’t think this is exclusively the reason. I know many of my friends are in the same situation. Even if their parent(s) are not disabled in any specific way, they share their concerns with me about their parent(s)’s behaviors, decisions, etc. I hear them express their disapproval of a particular decision or attitude. They express these to the parent(s) only to be rebuked. Then there is angst between them. Sadly, sometimes it doesn’t get resolved before it is too late…

As children, we looked to our parents for everything; clothing and housing, food and education, more. We depended on them to make “the rules” and lay a foundation to lead us into responsible and respectable adulthood. They made, or at least helped us make, important decisions. Most of us were fortunate enough to receive all of these gifts from our parents. So what happens when we begin to see and feel the need to take care of them and make those same kinds of decisions for them?

From an article at elderoptionsoftexas.com, Roll Reversal: Should You ‘Parent’ Your Parent?:

Because of advances in medicine, more and more people are living well into their 90’s. But quality of life isn’t always keeping up—and many older adults have mobility issues, chronic conditions, dementia, and other health problems that mean they need live-in care.

Many adult children make the decision to take care of their elderly parents—either part-time or full-time. But caring for a parent comes with some pitfalls. Often, it comes in the form of ‘roll reversal’. When your parent needs significant help to do basic things—even things involve very intimate hygiene-related tasks—it can be tempting to start seeing this as a reversal in roles. 

If you haven’t had to face this, let me tell ya, it ain’t easy. My dear sister, Joan, now lives with my mother. Granted, the loss of Mom’s leg is truly tragic and she often expresses feelings of uselessness. While she still balances her own check book, lays out her vitamins for the week every Saturday, folds laundry, and writes out checks for her bills in her same beautiful, perfect handwriting, “I’m a cripple,” she cries. “I hate my life. I just want to die.” Yet, whenever faced with some kind of challenge, like coughing to the point of choking, she clings to life in a panic. I don’t think she really wants to leave us. She just gets frustrated and depressed. Understandable for sure. She led such an active life before and still takes care of herself pretty well, with some limitations, of course. She has a caregiver most days while Joan is at work and I take over care duties full-time whenever Joan goes out of town.

For the most part, it’s routine. For instance, breakfast in the morning consists of cereal or eggs and toast, occasionally with a little bacon because she loves it, but has to avoid too much salt. BUT, if I ask her if she’d like some sliced tomato with it, I am met with gritted teeth and fists banging the table. “Noooooo,” she roars, “I just want eggs!” I want to ask, “Who are you and what have you done with my mother?” Joan gets this same type of reaction when Mom can’t find some piece of paper she feels is important and Joan doesn’t quite grasp the significance.

I found an article at agingcare.com entitled Switching Roles: Coping with Your Rebellious Aging Parent by Carolyn Rosenblatt.  She says,

“Some people call this “switching roles”. What it means is that your job, one you’ve never done before, is to be sure your parent is safe and cared for, just as your parent once did for you. The problem is, your parent is not going to grow up, become more mature and eventually appreciate your efforts. So where does that leave you?

For most adult children who must learn this new job of safety monitor, taking on the new responsibility of “parenting your parent” leaves you with a fair amount of stress and anxiety. Some adult children still feel intimidated by an imperious aging parent, even one who is infirm, demented or unable to care for themselves independently. It takes some doing to face this and cope, but it can be done.”

Rosenblatt offers five “strategies” for coping with the new role of parenting our parent(s). She also refers to several other articles the agingcare.com website offers on the subject.

Mom is still mighty sharp in most aspects, but sometimes she can get downright belligerent. That is probably our greatest challenge. We’ve decided she is bored, since she stays at home with rare exception, and could use some stimulation, input from outside her little world. It’s hard to get her out, though, because she claims getting in and out of the car is “exhausting.” No doubt. It would probably be so at 92 even if she had both legs. At this point, however, we have introduced her to the idea of a senior residence that seems absolutely fabulous. She now goes to a class there every Wednesday and admits (albeit reluctantly) that she enjoys it. Moving there is under consideration, but she’s “not ready for that yet.”

For now, like everything in life, we’re taking it one day – one minute at a time. And loving her all we can for as long as we can. Perhaps you are facing similar challenges with your parent or parents. Do you have any suggestions?                Any and all are welcome.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher. She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations. She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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The Other Side of the Couch – A Storm Passes  

 

A friend and I were recently eating lunch at a popular Nashville restaurant.

We often sit toward the back of the restaurant, and this is also the area that many of the families with young children choose.  As we sat down and were served our meal, a little girl, perhaps four or five, dissolved into loud sobs.  Her distress intensified, as did the sound of her crying.

What happened next was amazing.

The child’s father, seated to her right, calmly pulled her chair closer to his, reached out, and gathered her into his arms, holding her close against his shoulder – and he just held her and let her cry.  He didn’t talk; he didn’t explain or tell her what to do; he didn’t tell her to pull herself together – he just held her and let her cry.

Within a couple of minutes the sobs began to diminish.  The child sat up, took some breaths, and soon got back to her own chair and her own meal.

The storm had passed.

We never really knew what precipitated her distress.  It could have been anything – hurt feelings, not liking her lunch, competing with her sister, wanting attention – we didn’t know.  What we did know, however, was that this father knew that if he let his daughter feel what she was feeling, without interfering or explaining or trying to change things, she would work it through.  And she did.

Children are so in touch with their feelings and their bodies – they know that they need to express the emotions that arise in them.   Our job is often to stay out of their way as they do so.  A child who has experienced a challenging moment has feelings arise and allows those feelings to move.  Loving presence is often the best thing we can offer.

What if the child were acting out – throwing things or harming self or others?  In that case, clear boundaries must be set, but loving presence as the child works through the experience is still needed.

I appreciated this father’s skill.  His daughter is being given a gift that will last a lifetime.  Would that all children could have that opportunity.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com .

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