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"So, when me and daddy get old, you'll take care of us, right?" This was a question that I casually asked my 7-year-old daughter when we were driving back from school. Our car seems to be the breeding ground for all sorts of conversations from silly to serious. But her answer surprised me.
"Ummm, well, I'll be living in Paris," she stated in a very matter of fact way.
"Me and daddy can live with you there. We love Paris," I countered hopefully. There was a pause that went on a little too long for my liking.
"Well, I'm going to be really, really busy. I don't think I'll have time," she bluntly replied.
Her answer got to me. The people who bath her, feed her and attend to all her needs ... she won't have time for us? I know she is just 7, but her answer bothered me.
We only have one child, and I know that I am not alone in assuming that our children will be there for us when we become old and frail. Helping us in the "golden years," from taking us to doctor's offices, to taking over Thanksgiving dinner, to making sure we're put into a decent old folks home. It was just one of those assumptions I had for good reason: The caring for the elders is something my family has done for generations—the new guard taking care of the aging old guard. But could my daughter put an end to this cycle?
One of the reasons this slightly heavy topic came up in the car was that I am currently helping care for my father who underwent a massive surgery and is in need of help with the day-to-day. I am his only child and luckily live just three blocks from him, so I am there to help in both body and spirit. I've thought about how difficult it would be for him if I wasn't committed to helping or if I lived far away. But I am here: ready, willing and able. I am, in all accounts, a dutiful daughter.
Kids are no longer staying close to their families when they grow up. They move away—sometimes to Paris, sometimes across the county.
It has been an unwritten rule that children will grow up and feel a duty to care for their elderly parents. This "unwritten rule" actually has been written about in Business Daywhen they said "that ones' children will play an important role in providing economic security and care for aged parents, and in turn, these parents once they become old, should be able to rely on their children."
But this seems to be a rather old-school assumption. Kids are no longer staying close to their families when they grow up. They move away; sometimes to Paris, sometimes across the county. They become busy with their own lives, relationships, careers and kids. They may not have the same conviction of caring for their own children and their ailing parents at the same time. They may not embrace being part of the "sandwich generation." But as a parent, especially one who is caring for an aging dad, I can only hope that my own child embraces this tradition.
What can we do about it now before we cross over to the older side? Really, I have no clue, and there is no way to control the future. But, for me, I think the best thing would be to give my child the right moral, ethical and emotionally healthy life that I can, making that parent-child bond so strong that she would not just want to take care of me when I am old, but will do so with love, compassion and patience; three things that, as a parent, I have given to her over and over. I just hope that my daughter's place in Paris has room for us all.
Do you expect your children to care for you when you are old?