Entries from May 1, 2008 - June 1, 2008
My 83-year-old mother-in-law is quivering with rage. Uninvited, into her apartment, walked her daughter-in-law, a phone call to her son, and then against her will, we arrange a doctor’s appointment for her the next day. My father-in-law is limp with relief. He knows something isn’t right with his wife but he doesn’t know what to do about it. My 90-pound soaking wet, mother-in-law is still sitting on her couch literally vibrating with anger. I try some small talk to defuse the situation, but it is obvious they both want me to leave. Bless her heart; I know she is capable of giving her husband a very hard time, which will not start until I leave. Dad assured me he will all right. Living into you 80’s and 90’s is not for sissies.
I didn’t like 60 on Up: The Truth about Aging in America the first time I read it. I though it was a cup half empty book, focusing on the down side of living longer. My father just won a gin tournament (cards not drinking) at 82 against “younger guys”. He still travels back and forth between New York and Florida and plays golf twice a week. He reads a lot and knows how to use his coffeemaker. Honestly, he could be an AARP poster boy.
My husband read the book and though it insightful. He pointed out that 80 year olds, the people with the authority of experience, write few books about the topic of aging. The author, Lillian B. Rubin , Ph.D. is 83. After a final look at my mother-in-law so angry with me she would not say good-bye as I left her apartment, I reread 60 on Up from a different perspective.
Dr. Rubin writes with statistics backed by experience about aging. It seems older people live with a lot of fear. Fear of not being useful, of running out of money, of out living friends, family, their own children. They fear lose of control over their lives and decisions.
My mother-in-laws fears were justified. In I walked; her daughter–in-law who, who in the thirty years we have known each other, has never overruled any decision she has made concerning her health. Or any other personal decision for that matter. The fact that her medicine left her incapable of making the best decision and she needed my help, didn’t change the fact I overruled her.
60 on Up is a warning to those of us entering our 50’s. We already know that it is past time to start making financial provision for old age, so get moving. Dr Rubin explains there more too entering our retirement years than a good retirement plan. Now is the time to start developing interest and skills, ties to community and family, especially ties outside the work place, which will equip us to do more than play golf every day. Having a purpose in life is what makes life after retirement a valuable, interesting time.
Now is time to think and plan for the third phase of life. 60 on Up gives the reader much to consider.
The AMA doesn’t recognize Senioritis as a legitimate seasonal affliction. This esteemed body doesn’t recognize the effect of sugar ingestion on children’s behavior either. As any preschool parent can testify, too much sugar leads to a hyper kid. As any parent with a teenager can testify second semester senior year, leads to Senioritis.
The symptoms of Senioritis are many and varied. Among the most reported symptoms are the desire to sleep through first period, either in school or at home during school. The delusional belief that upon acceptance by a college for the fall semester grades are no long of any importance. That $682.00 is a reasonable price to pay for a gold plated ring with an ersatz gemlike stone.
An interesting variation of Senioritis is Prom Complex. The prom becomes fixated in the minds of those with this affliction as the most significant event in the whole of human existence. The symptoms presents differently in males and females. In females there develops an obsession with finding the perfect prom dress. This relentless inner drive may lead to marathon shopping sprees. Malnutrition, fatigue and poor taste are dangers to be watched for. In males, the obsession is finding the hottest date. Treating others unkindly and lack of good judgment are common for those males experiencing Prom Complex.
There is an oft-reported complication in sufferers of Senioritis over the age of 18. Adultition: the erroneous belief that because the afflicted ones are 18 their parents no longer have any say over how the afflicted conduct their lives.
The treatments of Senioritis while onerous is of short duration. There is not much that can be done to treat the afflicted seniors. They know it all already. Caretakers, usually parents, are advises to pick their battles, hold on to their tempers, their credit cards, and their sense of the absurd. If morally acceptable, a glass of wine now and then for the caretaker is advisable.
The affliction usually runs it course by graduation.
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A friend was telling me about the lies her semi-adult child had told her. Her experience sounded similar to my own. We would ask questions of my son about his life and he would lie to us. Eventually we would find out about the lies, confront him, he would apologize and there would be other lies.
Lying is wrong, period. As I have though over the months about the episodes we had with our son, I have come to realize that while his lying was wrong, it is equally wrong for me to disrespect him as a fellow adult with my impertinent questions.
Semi-adults lie because they don’t want to deal with their parents’ response to accurate answers or they don’t think their parents are entitled to invade their privacy with their questions. It is so much easier to see where other parents are crossing the line. The line is a lot harder to envision when it comes to our own kids and ourselves.
A friend’s child stared lying after her parent continued to express their displeasure at her choice of boyfriend. An honest answer to their questions left her defenseless against having to hear again, what is wrong with the man she loves. That her parents are right in their assessment of his character doesn’t equate to the freedom to keep pointing out his faults to their daughter. If her parents want the truthful answers to their questions, they have to be willing to respect their child even when they don't like her answers. It is so hard for us as parents to get this.
Another friend’s child consulted with his parents about a college course he was thinking of dropping. His parents didn’t want him to drop the course and told him to call after he decided what he was going to do. He didn’t call and he didn’t return his parents calls and he did drop the course. He didn’t lie but he didn’t want to deal with their disapproval so he went into avoidance mode. If they want continued input into their semi-adult child's decision, when they have to respect the decision he makes.
I would ask my child about the movies and music he was consuming. I never liked his answers. Eventually he didn't want to deal with the lecture or my disappointment in his choices, so he lied about what he was watching and listening to. My agenda with my questions was not to take an interest in his life, but to continue to govern his choices by my approval or disapproval. If I wanted my child to be honest with me, I had to be respectful of him.
Here is my suggested Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for dealing with semi-adult children.
It is unfair for parents to ask the same questions if we already know we are not going to like the answers. If you have had your say on the subject, give your semi-adult child the same respect you desire from other adults: Don’t ask.
For the semi-adults: Don’t tell a lie. Taking the easy way out is not very adult of you. If your parents are still supporting you and you are concerned that your actions might cost you that support, reconsider your actions. You are not yet a free agent. Find a way to deal with your parents without lying. Sometimes you have to be the grownup in the relationship with your parents.
I wrote this brilliant insightful three-part blog piece. Proud of what I had written I call my daughters down so they can read it and praise their mother. One child conceded that my story was “good”. The other was appalled. The story is about an event in her life and she strongly objected to me publishing it.
She doesn’t just object to me putting the piece on my blog. She stated for the record that I am a liar, a bad mother and that she is not sure I am a Christian. This daughter tends to use the nuclear bomb approach making her thoughts and feelings known. She leaves the room promising to write her own blog on the subject. I am so relieved she has left, the “write my own blog” part didn’t register.
I my own defense, I didn’t intend to hurt her with my words. I was reluctant to deny the world the opportunity to read my brilliant prose. However, my daughter is right, it’s not my story to tell. I am guilty of being careless about her feelings. I go upstairs to inform her I’m not going to publish it. Too late, she has already blogged her feeling about my betrayal to the world. If I will read what she has published, she will take it down.
Now I am mad! I compose everything I write on Microsoft Word, then copy it over to my blog. She composes directly on her blog publishing as she goes. She has definitely one-upped mom in the developing Blog War.
I tell her to delete her whole blog and put the laptop in my room. She did pull the entry and put the laptop in my room. She knew she had crossed a line in her dealings with me.
Meanwhile I am downstairs thinking that while she is deleting her blog, she could also delete mine.
She had the technical advantage in a Blog War. I don’t even know how to change my password for Pete’s sake.
I have the moral authority as her mother. Neither one of us can claim the moral high ground. I didn’t mean to cause her pain but I did. She says she wrote what she did so she could express her feelings. The fact that I am now reveled to be the most evil, probably unsaved mother in the world is not her fault.
I’ve have apologized several times. I have stated several times I will not publish my brilliant story. Not enough for my daughter, she crossed a line in dealing with a different family member earlier this week and I made her write a letter of apology. She wants a letter from me. Blog War has devolved into a mother-daughter power struggle.
My mother had all the technological power in all our mother-daughter power struggles and she had the moral authority. If she didn’t always have the moral high ground it didn’t matter, she was the mom. I could tell my friends and my diary of her perfidy. My daughter can tell the world.
Before my daughter went to bed, we did hug each other and tell each other we loved each other. Peace has been restored.
One more thing: If you see my kid, don’t mention I wrote this.