Posted tagged ‘parents’

Long Distance 911 Call

September 25, 2009

A long distance 911 call morning.  The plight of the adult child whose parents live  elsewhere.  How to interpret the steady phrases of EMTs who are several hours away, and who, five minutes earlier, couldn’t talk to you because (as you heard in the midst of tense rustling), they were “kind of busy here.”

Fly immediately?  Or, stay within cell range?

Don’t cry.

Medication can be complicated for the elderly and/or infirm.  I don’t want to put the blame on doctors (or do I?), but prescription instructions and verbal explanations are frequently cursory, sometimes actually wrong.    People think that medications are calibrated, and I’m sure doctors do try to calibrate them.  But there is a one-size-fits-all aspect even to fairly careful dosages of extremely powerful drugs.

The uninitiated (that is, those unused to the effects of overly high dosages)  think of medications as little thermostats, capable of adjusting the body’s specific internal climate in the manner of a really good air-conditioning unit;  unfortunately, many medications seem more like a battery-powered fan simply stoking this or that bodily function until its juice runs out.

(Which reminds me that I left my iron on this morning.  Can’t turn back now.)

Blood sugar meds seem especially tricky.  The most common one (at least the one my Dad takes) doesn’t adjust sugar but simply lowers it, bang, bang, bang, like a hammer hitting a peg.

The effects can be very dramatic.  We’re not talking about a nail shooting through a wall here, but a person sliding to the floor, unable to talk or move.

Seeing the slide, and then the recovery (even just hearing about them long distance), fills one with amazement for the body’s many delicate balances; its incredibly speedy resilience.

A few packets of sugar later, the body that had become an alarmingly dead weight is once again a smiling, laughing, person, reciting the name of the President and the day of the week. Only those standing to the side, or at the end of the phone line, now have trouble speaking.

Parents Being Parents

September 13, 2009

A parent is always a parent.

I am visiting mine at the moment.

I tell my Dad late in the afternoon that I’m going for a walk on the beach.  ( It is approximately two blocks away from my parents’ house.)   His eyes widen in alarm.

“I’m just going for a little bit,” I say.

He looks panicked.

“I need some air,” I protest.  “Some exercise.”

“Wouldn’t you rather stay here?” he pleads.

“It’s perfectly light out.  No one’s going to attack me.”

He shudders at the voicing of his fears.

This is a quiet prosperous beach town.  On a barrier island.  There are only two bridges.  A difficult place for violent crime.

“How about if you take Mama with you?”

She’s in her late eighties, and never leaves his side.   He really is not well enough to be left for very long.

“You think she’d be able to protect me?” I ask.

He scowls.  “But at least there’d be two of you.”

“It’s not like she’s going into the ocean,” my mom adds in support of my expedition.

He scowls more.

I don’t say anything further, since I sometimes do (heaven forbid) go in the ocean.   (Though nearsightedness and a kind of fear that has eventually rubbed off on me keeps me from going out far.)

Finally, with the promise that I will walk on the beach but only as far as a nearby restaurant he likes to get a special dish he likes, I go.

I move with some speed.  Still, by the time I get back to their block, I see my mom out on the front lawn looking for me; my father, with his walker, his face pained, in the doorway.


“I made it,” I say softly.

For Single Parents About to Explode – Put On Some Shoes

August 3, 2009

There’s a Buddhist teaching about the most skillful way to protect one’s feet from all the sharp stones that litter one’s path.

The question is whether you should wait to walk until the path, the whole earth, is covered with soft leather so that your feet will be protected from the sharp stones.   Should you yourself try to cover the earth with this soft leather?

The answer is no, silly.  (Although Buddhists don’t usually add that last part.)

Still, the answer is no.  You can’t coat the earth with soft leather, you should put the soft leather on your feet.  You should put on shoes if you want to mitigate all that sharpness.

I’m probably misphrasing this teaching.  (Sorry!)  But even my garbled version offers good advice, especially for single parents.

What are some of the main characteristics of single parents?

  1. The single parent is generally exhausted.
  2. On the good side, the single parent is usually less likely than the paired parent to be having daily arguments with another adult (except on the phone or through attorneys.)  On the bad side, the single parent is less likely  to have the daily succor (sorry) of another adult.
  3. Because of the lack of adult company, the single parent tends to want their kids to be their friends.  (As much as they try to resist this.)
  4. The single parent has to be the heavy.  Because of the child’s dependence, the single parent also has to be the softie.   Agh.

What does all this mean?

That, for single parents, it can be very hard to say no.  Even when we really really want to.

“No, we can’t go to the toy store right now, I’m exhausted.”  “No, you can’t stay out till 1: 30.  That’s too late and besides, I’ll be exhausted waiting up.”  “No, your boyfriend can’t stay over again.  The whole situation is still a bit strange to me and I’m already exhausted by it.”

Now keep in mind, I’m not advocating any particular limitations here (though I do believe in limitations.)  The important point are the words:  “even when we really really want to.”

Also, before going further, maybe I should broaden my audience.  This advice may not just be geared to single parents but to boomer and post boomer parents.  People who are constantly explaining things to their children; people who want to be understood by their children;  people who believe that if they only explain the reasoning behind their decisions (ad nauseum), the children (rational beings) will simply have to see agree.

But the children don’t always agree.  Often, no matter how much the parent explains, the children continue to want, to wheedle, to wish for.

So what?

But the guilty single or boomer or post-boomer parent can’t stand discontent in their children.  They want everyone to be in agreement.   So they frequently say yes, reluctantly, even though they really want to say no.  Even though they may believe no is the correct answer.

Sometimes, this is no big deal.  Sometimes it works out just fine.  Sometimes, yes may have been the right answer.

But when the parent really really wants to say no, saying yes is a bad idea.   Because, in that case, the parent’s patience grows thin.   That parent already feels compromised, put upon, and she/he is not in the mood for more.  So one wrong move on the part of the child, sometimes even a move that is not truly horrible–such as a polite request for a really cheap toy, an arrival at 1:43 due to the unavailability of taxis, or the child (not such a child) and boyfriend leaving shoes straddling the living room floor, can set that parent up for a major snap.

And once the single parent, the boomer or post-boomer parent, snaps, she or he feels bad.    (What happened to rationality?  How could I have said that?)

The problem is that you simply let yourself get pushed beyond your limit.  You were trying so hard to be your biggest, most p.c. self, that you snapped into your angry, most intolerant self.

In other words, you thought that your feet were tough enough to take sharp stones without any leather.

The overworked single parent can even begin to blame their explosion on the child.  Why did they ask you for something they must have known you were against?  They know how you hate to disappoint them?  Why didn’t they protect you?

In other words, why didn’t they coat the path with soft leather for you? 

But they’re the children.  They want.  You’re the parent.  You decide.

So put on some shoes.

And just say no.

(And if you have snapped, remember that life is long; and both children, and parents, forgiving.)

P.S. If you are a parent (or know a parent), check out 1 Mississippi, counting book on amazon for little children:

Also, my series on Blocking Writing Block will definitely be continued soon.   Thanks for comments.