Monday, March 9, 2009

Reverse parenting

I never had any kids of my own, but I sure am learning a lot about parenting lately. Or maybe I should say "reverse parenting" since I'm helping S with her 78 year-old mother. It might shock some people to know this, but I'm actually quite old-fashioned in some ways! An example of this is my strong preference for multi-generational living arrangements. The ideal home for me would be one that included people of all ages . . . children, adults, and elders living under one roof, taking care of each other, contributing whatever they can, and learning from each other. Yeah, I know, I'm just a hippie born too late, and I should be living on a commune in Oregon somewhere. 

I just assume that someday my parents (one or both) will come live with me wherever I am, or I'll go live with them, and that's that. So about 18 months ago, I jumped at the chance to have S's Mom come live with us. I truly enjoy having her around. She likes my cooking, and she loves the dogs and cat as much as they love her. We have things we do together, such as Wii bowling and watching the backyard birds. We also have things we like to do on our own. She watches a lot of TV sitcoms and dramas that I/we don't like, and I/we read or Facebook or surf the net or work in the yard or on household projects.

But it really is like having a kid sometimes. Like parents, S and I trade off responsibilities if her Mom is sick or if she needs something. I've taken her to the hairdresser and to the immediate care center. Sometimes, it takes both of us to help out. Like today. I won't go into specific details, except to say that we had the 911/ambulance/Emergency Room experience this morning, and it lasted until early afternoon. There is no way that S could have done this on her own. That makes me realize just how tough it can be for single parents. How do they do it?

Things are pretty much fine now, so if you're reading this please don't be concerned - my point is that as a result of my "reverse parenting" experience, I now feel like I have a better understanding of my family, friends, and work colleagues who have children and have to work around various family emergencies. 

Lots of my friends say they don't know how we do it, or that they don't think they could. It's really not that difficult, though. Mostly we have a great time together. Sometimes there are moments when we have to work together; occasionally we have to work through something together. There are rare times when it's challenging. But just like good parents, we realize that these are times to be cherished. 

Kids don't stay kids forever, after all.