If you take it really seriously, parenthood is the most challenging job you’ll ever have. The hours are long and the pay stinks. It requires the most emotional investment and the greatest patience. And no matter how well you do it, there will always be that nagging little voice in your head wondering, “Should I have handled that differently?” But parenthood is also the most rewarding and important role you’ll ever play. And the good news is that we're all in this together...

Monday, November 12, 2012


“Dad, I know the boot is heavy and uncomfortable, but you have to wear it if you want your foot to heal. Put it on and leave it on.”

Lately, I often find myself talking to my father as if he’s a recalcitrant child, which is actually a pretty apt comparison. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in May, he has rather rapidly lost the ability to remember simple instructions – “Take your medicine.” “Close the door so the dogs don’t get out.” And the latest admonition after he slipped and broke his foot  –“Don’t take the boot off!”

Today’s baby boomers are often in the challenging position of parenting both their children and their parents at the same time.
The difference in parenting both ends of the age spectrum is one of learning expectations. If you tell a child something over and over, you eventually expect to see changed behavior or cognitive growth. With a parent suffering from dementia, the new memories needed to actually learn something can’t be forged, and they need to be reminded to do some of life’s most basic functions. I was astonished to realize that when he lived alone, my father was often forgetting to eat. 

Parenting kids and parents simultaneously can be a tight-wire act of balancing needs and demands, exhausting, patience-defying, and not without moments of high drama. However, I’m finding a lot of the same strategies work for both. Ask nicely, but firmly. Set clear expectations. Explain briefly and move on. Listen well and provide a safe landing place for anger, frustration, sorrow. And above all, try to temper everything with love, compassion and respect. I have to remind myself that it’s privilege to be a parent – on both sides.

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