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Parent-Child Roles Reverse
Cook. Chauffeur. All-around fix-it person.
Financial officer. Problem solver. Protector. The list goes on and on.
Any parent owns a lot of different hats when he or she is raising
children and running a household. Some are worn proudly; others
grudgingly. No matter how they're worn, everyone in the family knows
they belong to each parent. There are his. There are hers. Until . . .
Until everything begins to change as your
parent ages and you must start to assume more and more of those
responsibilities for Dad or Mom. As you must start to fill the roles
that were always his or always hers.
It's not easy to watch these changes happen
in your parent. When Dad can no longer drive the car or handle paying
the bills. When Mom isn't able to cook or take care of the house.
It's not easy to be a part of those changes.
Not for your parent or for you.
It's understandable that an aging parent may
have a difficult time giving up those favorite tasks. Maybe Dad is
known for his beautiful garden. Mom for her wonderful family dinners.
Now someone else will be clipping the hedge or making the pot roast
and your parent knows that person can't do the job as well as he or
she did. It may seem that other person isn't just doing it
differently, that person is doing it wrong!
Your parent may argue, "Just who says I
can't do that anymore? You? Why, I was doing that when you were in
diapers. Doing it before you were born."
It's no wonder your help is sometimes met
with resistance and anger, is seen as interference rather than
On the other hand, maybe you don't want to
assume so many of those responsibilities but see you must. Maybe you
can't have everything just the way Mom did for dinners with the
extended family. Maybe you don't know how to fix Dad's car and so—heaven
forbid! —you have to hire someone else to do it. ("A stranger?
You're throwing away good money on a stranger to change the
These are some suggestions:
● If you find yourself and your parent
reversing roles, keep in mind that you need to be gentle about the
changes that have to be made. Go slowly. Don't suddenly charge in and
take control. Start with small things.
● If at all possible, let your parent
still play a part. For example, maybe Mom can't host Thanksgiving
dinner but can still make her famous gravy for it. Maybe Dad can’t
go crawling around under the car but can accompany you when you
"both take it in" to a 30-minute oil-change shop.
● Keep in mind there's another
important role that reverses as your parent ages. Growing up, Mom or
Dad was the one who chased away the bogeyman, the one who made
everything better. Now he or she is scared. Aging—preparing to die—isn't
Now it's up to you to comfort Mom. To
reassure her. Not to make everything all right—you both know that
can't be done—but to try to make it better than it is right now.
Watching Dad grow old and lose abilities
isn't easy either. It's frightening. But now you're supposed to be the
one who is strong and brave. Now you can't lean on him because he
needs to lean on you.
This is a special time in the relationship
between you and your parent. It's a strange and confusing time that
brings new challenges as it exposes new facets of the love you share.
It's a precious time.
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