Though much has been written about how to deal with parents who are slowing down physically and mentally, I’ve read nothing about how to deal with parents who have become wiser and kinder.
It may seem like there’s no problem if your parents have become better people. Just count your blessings and get on with life! But it’s not always that simple.
Mike grumbles, “I can’t believe my father wants to be so involved with my kids. When I was growing up, he barely gave me the time of day. “Shut up! Do your homework! Listen to your mother!” That was pretty much the extent of our relationship. And now, he wants to take my son to school, coach his games, take him on a trip. Who is this new person? And how come I got the short end of the stick?”
Kim gripes, “My mother was always on my case. I had to dress right, speak right, eat right and live right. Otherwise, what would people think? Now, when I berate my daughter for not acting properly, my mother comes to her defense, telling me that I’m too hard on her. It makes me furious. She was 10 times harder on me than I am on my daughter. What’s going on here?”
People change and forget to tell each other. And when those people are your parents, it can be totally disorienting.
When those rigid, hard-nosed parents who raised you now exist only in your memory, it may make you wonder about your sanity. Did you misconstrue your whole childhood experience? Are you distorting the facts? What happened?
Though some people’s negative traits harden with age, others, like fine wine, mellow. Your parents may have become wiser and kinder over time. At this point in their lives, they may feel less stressed, less nervous about careers, less fired up about what’s “right” and more focused on enjoying life.
It’s not that simple, however, for you.
When your son thinks your dad is the greatest guy, do you tell him what a lousy father he was to you? And if you do, would he even believe you?
If your daughter and mother gang up against you, claiming that you’re the one who’s too uptight, do you keep your mouth shut or spit out what you’re really thinking?
It’s easy to stew with resentment. However, a better choice is to take the opportunity to open up a dialogue with your parents.
Tell them how pleased you are that they are enjoying their grandchildren. Then, share with them the differences you notice in how they parented then and what they do now.
Seek to create understanding, not blame. Cry with them about the hurts you experienced. Laugh with them about the joyous memories. And know that it’s not only younger people who change as they mature. It’s older people as well.