Some of us whose adult children are now of sandwich-generation age--meaning their teen- and 20-something kids are becoming independent while their parents are evolving toward ancient--have a "take control" attitude toward their parents. It may be a hangover from the Covad pandemic. Back in those bad old days, a good number of adult kids, seeing their parents as vulnerable, set down rules for us--as though they had become our parents. What I saw among my friends were dictates like these: No shopping even if masked; no outdoor visits with friends (even if masked); no indoor visits with grandkids (only waves from the window).
Now that the pandemic has eased--or at least, the way we live with it has evolved--some of us are finding our kids haven't taken the foot off the controls. Again, I see it among my friends, especially those with health problems. But now I have news of it from afar. Well, as afar as Philip Galanes and his Social Q column
In the Galanes instance, a reader/letterwriter is a middle-aged man who is alarmed because his partner wants to move his 80-year-old parents who live in a distant city into his and his partner's home. The partner wants to remodel the home to accommodate his parents but the reader is looking for another solution--say, offering to contribute to a house or apartment for the parents that's in a nearby neighborhood but not in the reader's home.
Galanes's answer looks at the issue from the parents' point of view. He defends our autonomy and ends with a point we might want to make if we feel our kids are getting too, well, controlling. Here's some of Galanes'reply:
....I’ve been the self-appointed savior of an older parent, too! I know your partner is acting out of love (and fear). But his parents are old — not pieces of furniture to be carted from state to state. Your partner should begin this discussion by asking his parents what they would like if they were to need more help.
They may be part of a vibrant community of friends and neighbors who enrich their daily lives. They may prefer to age in place (with appropriate help) or at an assisted-living facility nearby....And all these options avoid the drastic steps of remodeling homes or buying new ones in a state where their son may be the only person they know.
I don’t minimize the practical or emotional complexities of aging. Your partner’s parents are lucky to have a loving son in their corner. And for all we know, they may want to move — at which point, we can take up your concern. But respecting their autonomy has to be the core of this discussion. They’ve seen a thing or two in their 80-odd years! Let them lead the way for as long as they can.
painting: R Bearden