Mid-Life Relationships between Parents and Children: Role-Reversal

Over the dresser in our bedroom is a picture of Paula and myself that I look at every now and then and wonder, “What ever happened to that guy?” 

While my bride has discovered the fountain of youth, I see the toll of the years on my face, and my full and dark brown hair is now thinning and turning gray.

I’m slower to get out of bed in the morning, too.

Now I qualify for a senior adult coffee at most fast food places and get the full breakfast discount at IHOP.   A while back I got coffee and the lady just rung up the discount without my asking.    I wasn’t offended at all; seniority has privileges.

One of the more difficult parts of growing older has been watching my parents go through some struggles.   One of these is the “reversal of the roles”.   Times when an aging parent met the needs of their child in ways their mom and dad formerly did for them.

My parents raised us in a secure environment which was an incredible gift.  Part of that relationship was they freely gave to me, my sister and brother and gave far more to us than we will ever give to them and did so without hesitation.

Now, Dad is gone and Mom needs us more than we need her in some ways.   It’s hard for her to be dependent, though she has to be.

To be transparent, even in my mid-life years, I enjoyed the sense of security I derived from the strength of my parents.  Their counsel, encouragement, affirmations and their mere presence was important to me as an adult. 

My beloved father has gone on to be with the Lord and my mom now needs me more than ever.   When this aspect of our relationship began to change it was a little unsettling to me.   Perhaps it reminded me of me own mortality, but more so I didn’t realize how much I “needed” the strength of my parents.

Here’s a simple truth: as we age, we become more dependent.   This process is not only difficult for parents, but for sons and daughters as well.

As an adult child in mid-life there is an awkwardness of having to now be the “stronger one”.    I am just entering the season of being a senior adult and occasionally having my children to care for me and it is humbling.

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I love to take my mom to lunch. She has aged gracefully.

In my relationship with my adult children I have been the rock that they could run to for words of encouragement and assistance.  Now, there are often times when they provide the support for me.

I have a debilitating illness that sometimes causes me to be discouraged.   One afternoon I was going through an especially difficult time and my oldest son, Jeremiah, called and asked me to go somewhere with him.

While we talked, he began to encourage me and strengthen me with his words and a biblical perspective.  It meant the world to me.  What I had done for him hundreds of times he now did for me in a time of great need.

This is our legacy. Paula and I have laid our lives down for our children to know and serve the Lord. Now, we have another son and daughter through marriage into our family and two grandchildren. The window of opportunity is small to make a difference. God has been good to us in spite of our mistakes.

Mid-life years are also characterized by having to say good-bye to those we love deeply.  This includes not only our parents, but our close friends as death begins to call.    (Of course, there are those wonderful new relationships we have, our grandchildren, at this time in life!).

But in a normal lifetime, before we say our good-byes, there is a precious opportunity for us to show our love and respect to our parents for all they have done for us. 

This is difficult for both of us.  Mom and Dad despise the growing weakness and having to depend on others.  Their children are more busy than ever with their growing families and their time is at a premium.

But this tender connection and the sacrifice offered during this time is a sacred gift to the aging parent.   It is an opportunity to fulfill a small portion of what our parents have done for us when were young.

Remember, as the years pass, mid-life parents will inevitably become senior parents.    How we treat our elderly parents is instructive to our younger children as to how they will treat us one day. 

One of my favorite song-writers, Steve Chapman, crafted a lyric in one of his songs that describes this period of life called “Trading Places”.

“Trading Places”

“It’s cold outside, put on your sweater;

Take your medicine, it’ll help you feel better.

These were Mama’s words so long ago;

I hear them again, I hear them echo.

O, but this time they come from me,

Every time I go to see her;

Yesterday I helped her tie her laces,

Then I realized,

We’re a mother and child, trading places.

 

Let’s cross the street, take hold of my hand;

When we’re in the store, stay close as you can.

When Mama said these words, love was the reason.

Still it is love, whenever she hears them.

O, but this time they come from me,

Every time I go to see her;

Yesterday I helped her tie her laces,

Then I realized,

We’re a mother and child, trading places.

 

And if my time goes on,

I know there’ll come a day

When it will be my turn

To hear my children say

It’s cold outside, put on your sweater;

Take your medicine, it’ll help you feel better.

These were Mama’s words so long ago;

I hear them again, I hear them echo.

(www.steveandanniechapman.com)

 

 

 

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About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 40 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Aging parents, bearing burdens, familiy issues, Family Issues, Mid-life issues, Parenting, Senior adult issues and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mid-Life Relationships between Parents and Children: Role-Reversal

  1. crh060396 says:

    Very enlightening read! Thank you 🙂

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