There was a time that I used to do phoning for Age Concern. The idea is that those that didn’t have personal beafriends got at least two phone calls a month. I found quite a few had grown up children but zero contact. They had been deserted. It wasn’t just geography, after all phone ,internet and skype, not to mention cheap air fares, mean contact of sorts can be maintained. No, the bridges had been burned. I was told this was largely because of some bust up over the children’s choice of partner. When faced with a choice between parent or partner, its obvious what happens.
But now two people we know are faced with cold shoulders from their children. But theirs is a different story. Both are divorced which of course weakens the family fabric. Both have seen previoiulsy strong positions changed by the decline or end of their careers. More , neither has really got their domestic act together and have increasingly as their careers have run down become somewhat high maintenance.
This means they look, or the children feel they look to them, for stability. Security and help. Role reversal. But the children are young adults who are busy building their lives, careers, families and homes. That is they have problems of their own.They do not have time for fit parents who don’t know where to live, who to live with, or what day it might be. At a time when the children might look to their parents as being the bank of last resort or the bolt hole from the cares of the world these parents are looking to their children to provide them with emotional and social stability. The children have neither the time nor the maturity to respond.
Children, when parents reach their dotage naturally step up as carers. I know from my own experience that this is not necessarily an act of love but of duty . Responsible adults make sure their parents when they are feeble are protected. But they dont have to give their parents shape and purpose to their lives.
Parents who expect their children to put them first are as the two of which I write, in for a shock. It is natural for young adults to be selfish. Those who stay behind, who put their own lives on hold, to look after old parents belong to another generation ,another time.
There is also another aspect. The interests and concerns of those over sixty are very different from those of thirty something. Those parents and children who claim to be best friends are surely kidding themselves or hiding a lack of social skills.That is there may well be connections but essentially each side finds deep friendship and meaningful communication with those of their own generation. Another reason why when parents go for a full press relationship with their grown children they find that its very much love in a cold climate.
Whatever, as my two parents passe think of their privately educated children they will understand the power of King Lear’s lament
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child”