Some parents seem to suffer under the delusion that the affliction of parenthood will be ended if they ever get ‘em raised. Yes, get ‘em out of diapers, get ‘em potty trained, socialize ‘em and teach them manners. Educate them and send them off into the world to live happily ever after. Then sit back, hands folded, and smile about a job well done.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! This is a fallacy It never will happen. They are always children, they never grow up, they always have problems, and they always come to parents for solutions. “Once a parent, always a parent” is an old but true adage. It never ends. What happens is not that the small problems magically go away; instead they multiply and become large problems
The hardest chore facing a parent has nothing to do with snotty noses, scraped knees, or dirty diapers. The really difficult challenge that all parents face is: “How in the world to get rid of the brats.” Every time we think the nest is finally empty, we turn around and one of the chicks is back in it.
They have graduated college and have no place to live. They are having their fleabag apartment exterminated, so they come to stay with us. They are out of a job and the landlord doesn’t understand financial crisis. They are emotionally devastated and going through a breakup. They are moving and need a temporary respite between landings. They have a slob for a roommate – or they are the slob and the roommate has kicked them out. The list is endless.
What can a parent do – barricade the door and have the phone disconnected? Remember these are the same kids for whom we have changed diapers, gone to endless little league games, gone to PTA and Scout meetings, nursed through measles and flu, taken to music and swimming lessons, tutored through math, hauled to the orthodontist, taken to the emergency room for broken bones, given birthday parties, bandaged scraped knees and wounded egos, driven in car pools, and cried for with pride and relief when they finally graduated high school. How can a parent who is any sort of caring person turn down his or her own flesh and blood? Yes, parents are a soft touch – we are stuck with the brats.
Even when we think that they are settled, have a job and are secure, we are still not rid of them. They are irresponsible and don’t get life insurance. They fail to take care of dental needs and get the toothache. Do we just let them suffer? The dilapidated car breaks down or is wrecked and there is no transportation. They become irresponsible with drugs, sex, alcohol, or get in legal trouble and need help. They spend more money than they earn and get into financial difficulty. This is when it gets really tough. Are they still kids when they begin to have adult problems? In other words, the small problems that once were so important fade into insignificance.
The really strange thing is that everyone thinks his or her kids are immune. “Not my kid,” they think. Right! Every parent thinks that if they raise their children “right,” they will grow up to be mature, responsible, self-sufficient adults. So, show me one honest parent with grown children that has never had a problem of some kind with their adult offspring. Our kids are human and have shortcomings just like the rest of us. They fall down, and who is there to help them back to their feet? Well, good old mom and dad, who else.
When do we draw the line, cut the apron strings with vigor, and force responsibility and independence, and when do we follow our heart and step in with assistance? We grow weary of being used and have a right to have a life of our own. How much help is too much help and at what point do parents turn their back and say “NO”? If only the worse thing a parent had to worry about was muddy shoes and uneaten broccoli.
When the children finally become adults and are forced or alienated into some degree of self-sufficiency and maturity, parents are finally able to think of themselves and their own needs for the first time in a long while. Then the grandchildren begin to come along. Who better for a new parent to ask for advice than the person who raised them? Suddenly, as a grandparent, the same person who knew nothing, as a parent is now smarter than the wisest guru. There are discipline problems, sicknesses, babysitting needs.
And so, those of us who have chosen to procreate ourselves have made a permanent decision. There is no escape. Where do you go to divorce your children? We are doomed to be parents for the rest of our lives. We accept our curse because only with the punishment do we receive the rewards. We count our blessings not our troubles.
But somewhere deep inside, we secretly smile, not with happiness but with the sure knowledge that has come to us in our living of life. With the new generation comes a new wisdom – ITS PAYDAY! At last our ungrateful child will understand what it is really like to be a parent. And the payback is innocently rocking in the cradle right now. As we look at the grandchild, we see our own child again, our genes reincarnated, ourselves.
The cycle is renewed. We feel the pending heartbreak before it even happens.