Parent-child roles reverse when faced with hardships

Growing up, I counted on my parents to support me in almost every aspect of my life and they never had a problem doing that for me. It was as if I were the one responsibility in their lives that they could never ignore; letting me down was just never an option.

Even today I know my mom will always be there for me when I’m sad, because from the day I was born she has felt that it is her job as my mother to make sure that I am never in pain. So, driven by an unconditional love that forces her to hurt whenever I hurt, she will always do whatever she can to relieve my pain.

I sometimes forget, though, that she is also someone’s child, and she has always relied on her father to do the same for her.

As my grandfather was moved into the intensive care unit this weekend with seemingly little time left to live, I had to try to comfort my mother through the anguish and confusion she felt, caused by the awareness that she is about to lose that support.

What I observed from my mother during this time was undoubtedly tragic, but nothing short of amazing, and it has given me some invaluable insight into the relationship that exists between parent and child that I would have otherwise not been able to discover, let alone comprehend.

I have found that as we grow older and we find that our parents’ needs gradually begin to outweigh our own, we then, as their child, feel responsible to do anything we can to take their pain away.

At 22, when I look at my mother, I still see her as my “rock” and my No. 1 source for support.

This weekend, though, when I saw her interacting with my ailing grandfather, I saw her as his little girl that he has spent the last 49 years of his life loving and supporting unconditionally. And even though I could see that she was still that little girl in his eyes and he was still her “rock,” an exchange of roles had to take place.

For the first time in their relationship, he now totally relied on her for support and she knew that she had the responsibility to take on that job for him.

It’s still hard for me to envision a time when I will have to support my mother the way she is supporting my grandfather, and I can’t imagine how scary it will be to have to acknowledge that the person I have always looked to for strength and support can no longer fill that role in my life. However, I now understand that this relationship is cyclical and I wouldn’t want my mother to count on anyone else after all that she has done for me.

They say that once you’re a parent, you’re a parent for your entire life. This is undeniably accurate.

However, I now understand that once you’re someone’s child, you’re always their child and that will eventually require me to offer my parents the same kind of unconditional support that they always made sure I had.

 

 

CHARLES LEAR

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