You may have read in the news some time back about China passing a law that requires children to care for their aging parents. This particular issue that preyed heavily on my mind in recent times with two of my grandparents landing in hospital over the last few months (my maternal grandfather twice and my paternal grandmother once). As I watched my aging uncle attempt to shift my immobile grandfather in the hospital bed, it really brought home the fact that my parents and those in their generation are no longer the strong, young individuals I still remember in my mind. They’re grandparents!
With all the “kids” (my generation) scattered throughout the world, I wonder if we will face the same problems of China when it comes to taking care of our aging parents. Of course, I know my duty to my parents – filial piety is a value I hold very close to my heart. Looking after my parents and my ILs in their old age is something I deem as important as looking after my own children. I’m not afraid for my parents or my ILs because I know what I would do for them. I confess my fear is for myself. I cannot help but wonder if my children will be there for me when I am old or if I will become part of the unwanted elderly population. Perhaps this is why I reacted so strongly to Aristotle’s display of ageism – because I fear it to be a preview of what is to come.
What’s greater than my fear of growing old, unwanted and a burden to those I love, is having a child who lacks sensitivity, compassion, and kindness. We witness so much of this in the world today – that general lack of caring and feeling towards those less fortunate than ourselves – that it would really crush me if my children were to grow up as individuals who behave in such manner.
So, after that last experience with Aristotle’s embarrassing outburst at my grandfather’s place, I revisited the topic several times about the elderly and the importance of being compassionate and kind. I don’t think I made an impact because when I took Aristotle to visit my grandfather again, he grumbled incessantly. He complained that it was boring and that he would be late for his swimming lesson. He dawdled and dragged his feet. He was so uncooperative and disagreeable that I felt like banging my head senseless against a wall in frustration.
The worst time to talk to your child about his poor behaviour is when you’re mad because you rarely handle it the way you should. When you cool off, you’ll probably agree that you could have said things a lot better and I’m sure there will be a number of things that you will feel you should have left out. After ranting to my SIL about it, she gave me some really good advice.
Here’s the conversation I had with Aristotle when we had reconnected and were both feeling calm and relatively happy with one another:
Me: Do you love grandpa and grandma?
Me: Well, I love great grandpa, too. I love him for all the reasons you love grandpa and grandma. When I was little, he did all those things that grandpa and grandma do for you that you really like. Now that he’s old and unwell, I want to do what I can to help him feel better. Next time, when grandpa and grandma are like great grandpa, wouldn’t you want to do the same for them?
Me: If you knew that bringing your kids to visit them would make them feel better even though your kids felt it was boring, wouldn’t you still want your kids to visit grandpa and grandma?
Me: Now do you understand why it’s so important to me for you and didi to come with me when I visit great grandpa?
What a change there was in his response and demeanour when I spoke to him in this way. No longer defiant and petulant, at least I could be sure he was actually listening to me and not blocking out what I was saying to him. Maybe now that I’ve reached him on a level that he understands, our next visit to great grandpa will be a little smoother…
If you don’t translate your life lessons into situations that your child can relate to, it’s hard for him to understand why he has to do the things you want him to. I know it’s obvious that it is important to make it real to your child, but when you’re angry and embarrassed by his behaviour, it can be hard to see the obvious. Those are the times when you need to step back and leave it for a while. That’s the good thing about an older child. You don’t always have to address the issue on the spot. You can come back to the subject later when you’ve calmed down and thought about a better way to handle it.