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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Parents and how they can drive us insane.....

Today is valentine’s day; I got my husband’s card made, the dessert made (which tasted good even though it had gone a little wrong; I don’t cook well under pressure) and the dinner cooked.  I’d put make-up on (something usually reserved for special occasions and weekends) and tidied the house more than usual and sat down to wait with our daughter.....only to find he’d been called to his father’s house to help with a computer problem. 

Something so simple it would be laughable at any other time, but not tonight; and something that a man who was an electrical engineer of some note should be able to handle considering he’s had a computer now for five years.  But, he’s nearly ninety and, frankly, can’t even manage e-mails without my help.

When does the change happen where we become the parents and they the child?  They cannot function without checking every little thing with us and those that don’t, like my own father, just rush headlong from one disaster to another - with us bringing up the rear apologising and picking up the pieces. I have to admit both tend to drive me up the wall in varying degrees; constantly answering queries over the most ridiculous things (how to print a label was the latest) and trying to maintain a patience I’m not feeling as I struggle with a hoover on the blink, a cat who’s just thrown up on the carpet and a dog I forgot I shut in the garden twenty minutes ago and who is now alerting the neighbourhood to my oversight with loud, and constant, barks.

However my own, pathological liar, father is no better in the other extreme – he gaily does whatever he wants, lies through his teeth to me whenever I ask what he’s up to (having grown up with him, I have an inbuilt sixth sense for trouble) and then in his naughty and sorry little boy voice expects me to sort it all out for him.  Always he promises to “never do it again, honestly love”, and we both know that promise – often sworn on my life and, once, on a stack of bibles – is only until the next time some reckless idea occurs to him.....

So which is better; the parent who queries every action with you, or the one that merely expects you to clear up the mess they’ve made?  For me it’s the former because, whilst my father in law’s constant questions are trying – at least we can head him off before he sets his laptop to self destruct, or my mother in law eats that tin of meat that ran out last summer (this did happen) and turns herself into a poster child for chronic food poisoning. My own father on the other hand just leaves me with a perpetual sense of dread every time the phone rings; as I am usually assured of some catastrophe or other of his own making purely because he treats responsibility the same way Dracula treats holy water.

I should also point out that my father is nearly seventy-two, and acts likes a juvenile delinquent.  My mother in law is 88 but still thinks if it's tinned it's safe.  My father in law is nearly ninety but continues to regard computers with suspicion and is convinced they're sentient beings merely trying to make him look stupid....

So is it age that causes these reversal of parent/child roles?  Either way, my husband and I are both only children, so all the weight of parental reliance falls on our shoulders alone – we have no siblings to share it with.  Something I admit I would’ve liked; until I spoke to a friend that did have two siblings, a brother and sister, and who – apparently – got no help from either. 

It seems, in a lot of families at least, that the majority of siblings unofficially ‘elect’ another to be the ‘carer’ so they can go off and do what they want.  Of course this other sibling might not want the weight of caring for said aged P’s all on their own, and will do their best to buck the yoke they’ve been allocated, only to be called ‘selfish’ and ‘uncaring’ by their siblings; the irony of these comments appearing to be lost on those that utter them.

But, whatever happens, there appears to be a general morph between parent and child - at some point the parent becomes the child, and the child takes on the role of parent; I do wonder if either party is ever particularly happy with this arrangement.  In my case my father in law doesn't appear to be that's for sure; my mother in law doesn't appear to care so long as someone's there to help, and my father actually delights in it.  I don’t mind for myself on the whole, with the exception of my father's antics; but what I do mind is the way we’re expected to stop our own lives and run to do their bidding.  They were never like that for us; my father in law never dropped what he was doing to help my husband and it was my late, much beloved, mum that helped me whenever I needed it, not my flake of a father.

So why are we expected to be at their beck and call; to the point where a valentine’s meal is ruined and an evening is put on hold, just to keep them happy?  We’re not alone either; most of my friends are the same with their parents and parents in law.  Is it love, duty or just a sense of ‘this could be me one day’?  Well, it won’t be me; I’ve told my daughter if I ever get that dictatorial to just shoot me and put me out of my, and her, misery – I never want to be like that with her; she’s a brilliant kid and won’t deserve it as an adult.  Of course I’ve absolutely no doubt that’s exactly what our parents all said when it was their parents driving them mad.........

This is Simi, thanks for reading.........

1 comment:

  1. This what you write is golden.