We are not truly adults until our parents are dead.

I don’t claim to be a psychologist and I bet I’m not the first person to realize this, so consider this post as a placeholder for comments and links as I discover whether my perception has any reality to it.

This morning I was reflecting on a telephone conversation with my mother yesterday. It was a family trip being planned. Participants are my parents, their 3 adult daughters, and 4 of our under-18 children. As I hung up from the food planning/bringing conversation, I recognized ‘relief’ as my major emotion. My mother (retired) was taking on the bulk of the food planning, buying, bringing and cooking responsibilities for our joint weekend timeshare get-away.

And I let her.

They say 50 is the new 30. They say we have more college graduates in ‘failure to launch’ conditions living with parents than ever before. We know divorced adults often move back in with their parents for a season.

I am a parent as well. Of 10 year old twins. Of a 23 year old step-daughter, just married last June. A recent phenomena with my daughter as she’s entering ‘adult life’ is that I feel almost a commission to offer advice. And to pay the check when we go places. Essentially I may still be taking care of her. I think that’s good. Not developmentally stilting, but good. It’s my expression of love.

Back to me and my mother. I let her take care of me. As the conversation was progressing I thought I was behaving as an equal, but when I hung up I found I’m bringing the prepared main dish for only one meal and nothing else. What that conversation was really about was not divvying up responsibilities but my mother discovering what it is my family likes so that she can take care of us. She loves me. And I love her for it.

But I’m beginning to get an inkling of what a change will be coming to me when I no longer have her around to lean on.

Is it awful that I am glad I can probably avoid growing up for another 20 years or so because my 69 year old parents are in such great health?

2 thoughts on “We are not truly adults until our parents are dead.

  1. You may not have to wait for them to pass away to get the opportunity to be an adult. Strokes, cancer, dementia, a fall, or other things could be debilitating enough where you will need to go in an take care of your parent if not long-term then for days or weeks at a time. Nothing makes you feel more like an adult than taking care of your parent (or in my case grandparent).

    1. I know, I know, I was just thinking of a retired colleague who is now leading eldercare workshops because of her experience caring for her parents. But I mean, she’s retired (65) so her remaining parent is way up there… Perhaps I too can prolong my adolescence through retirement?

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