Age and Hero(ine) Worship

I have never been a huge fan of respecting age. Unless the additional experience has increased your knowledge and your application of it, there is no reason for me to respect you just because you have eaten a few additional meals than me !

Our culture expects old age to be respected - unconditionally ! The other day, there was an interesting discussion on my WhatsApp group where someone posted a link where a mother of two sons explains why she refuses to look after her grand kids. If she had just said - "my life, my choice" I would have been far more comfortable with that than the way she framed some of the arguments. My first response was "If it were daughters, it would probably have been different". 'Cos unfortunately, in the process of child rearing, the dreams which get squashed are those of the mother...and rarely, that of the father. I also mentioned that ideally as a society there should be enough infrastructure for reliable care giving so that such issues do not arise.

As soon as I mentioned this, someone commented thus " Everyone gets their knickers in a twist when it comes to women's lib and freedom of choice, but the elderly in our country suffer so much discrimination, prejudice and torture from their own kids in the name of social reasons and cultural expectations. Why are grandparents expected not to live their life fully and in their own terms? Unless they feel so, they should not be forced to take on their children's responsibility. They have done enough and they should sit back and enjoy life. If things are not great between them, they should divorce, if they fancy spending money on anything they like they should. If they are single and fancy a partner they should and if they think their kids are assholes they should tell them to f off"

I replied back saying " as long as the same applies back from an adult child to parent"

Needless to say there was no response. Imagine reading this:

" Everyone gets their knickers in a twist when it comes to parents and obedience. But the adult kids in our country suffer so much discrimination, prejudice and torture from their own parents in the name of social reasons and cultural expectations. Why are adult kids expected not to live their life fully and in their own terms? Unless they feel so, they should not be forced to marry or have children (why the subtle and not so subtle suggestions about biological clock, seeing a doctor et al). Nor take on the responsibility of aged parents. They have done enough during their childhood and they should sit back and enjoy life in their prime. If things are not great between couples, they should divorce - who are parents to interfere and say 'adjust pls'? if they fancy spending money on anything they like they should (why ask them to build a house, save etc etc). If they are single and fancy a partner they should (why comment on the sanctity of marriage?) and if they think their parents are assholes they should tell them to f off"

Most people are still far more uncomfortable with the latter than the former. Sending a kid who can't communicate, to a day care which is not regulated by law nor run by competent authorities is considered far more acceptable than leaving a dementia afflicted parent in an old age home. The helplessness in both cases is the same, right?

The discussion then veered off into saying that there aren't good care options in India, 'cos grandparents voluntarily 'sacrifice'. I tend to disagree. Laws are weak in our land and child care institutions like any other enterprise, aim to make maximum profits - resulting in sub standard facilities and untrained staff. Naturally, the reliance on parents increase. And there is no free lunch - relying on parents come with its own price tag - we all choose our poisons, don't we?

As a society, we need to have far more respect accorded to care giving - and not differentiate between kids or aged parents. We also need to have sufficient infrastructure that is well regulated and monitored for care giving. This will allow everyone to have a far more contended and dignified life. After all, we all have just one life and a fixed time on this planet.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Hi Tinkerbells:)

I think most "Adult kids" expect to live their life fully , that is, have a career, get married, have children, buy a house, spend money etc. Regardless of whether their parents ask them or not, they do these anyway.

So, based on your logic, if parents never really asked the kids to do any of these things, are they absolved from their "grand parently" duties?

-Meena chechi



I don't agree on the helplessness bit, Bells. A child has a life to look forward to, and once he/she starts talking and is otherwise healthy, he/she can start taking care of himself/herself with increasing age. A dementia affected elderly person has little to look forward to, and many of them have spent their youth looking after their children and elderly - at a time when choices weren't as freely available to them. While I understand the need to not respect age for the sake of it, ageism is reality - much like sexism and racism.
Tinkerbells said…
@ meenachechi: I don't believe grandparents have any duties. When grandparents agree to do caregiving, it is an offer of help. I also believe that looking after parents in their old age is help not duty. And I don't believe in one way traffic when it comes to help. I know of enough people whose choice of careers, marriage et al have been fully influenced by parents. Once kids are adults, interactions - communication as well as offer of time should be mutual - there shouldn't be a sense of entitlement on either side.
@Anu: Helplessness only till the age the child can fend for himself/herself. Agree that one is a downward spiral and the other an upward one. However, a small child and an old parent - both are equally helpless and vulnerable to be exploited. Yes, ageism is a reality. But, a healthy well-to do parent who can't help to take care of a small grandchild should make their own arrangements when it comes to their old age - and not expect children to give up everything and rush back to look after them. 'cos the same argument of 'we too have a life' applies to both sides. If they actually come and look after then that's a bonus! Again, why we need institutional care giving and rules to ensure its done properly.
I don't see it as a zero-sum game, Bells. There is enough data to show that elderly people suffer at the hands of their children far more than children suffer at the hands of their parents or grandparents. If a sense of professionalism is to be expected regarding communication, time and help, then a sense of professionalism is to be expected regarding living with choices too. For every child who is affected by bad choices influenced by parents, there are parents who make tough choices in order to give their child the best. If the adult child cannot live with those choices, perhaps he/she hasn't grown up enough.
Tinkerbells said…
@ Anu: Yes, statistically elderly people are more likely to suffer - 'cos they no longer have the physical or mental ability to bounce back from difficult situations and young people have energy, money etc on their side (power, to say crudely) - and yea, it is far easier to misuse power. That's why I agree that ageism exists and they need to be cared for. I wasn't referring to professionalism - relationships are almost always governed by emotions than rational thought ! My limited point is that when you are young and healthy, if you refuse to offer help, then don't expect to get it back when you are old and frail. That does not mean, I am judging the choice - but do make arrangements for getting cared for. You can't say that "I am young so let me live my life", and then go on to say "Now I am old, so you don't live your life" ...when the joint family system breaks up, you can't expect just a few parts of it to stay in tact.
The last part, "for every child who is affected by bad choices influenced by parents..." I didn't really understand that - what choices are you referring to here?
"I know of enough people whose choice of careers, marriage et al have been fully influenced by parents" -- the choices you are referring to.
Tinkerbells said…
Oh ok...well that was a response to Meena chichi saying that people go ahead and do things regardless of what parents say - I was only saying that parents influence those decisions in a lot of cases (and in many cases parents do guide kids away from disaster, so its not always bad that they are involved) - however whether those choices are good or bad depends a lot on what the child makes of it also, so I agree with you that you live with your choices, no matter who/what influenced them.

However, if someone in your life keeps getting into it only when it is convenient for them (this is applicable across relationships, though in this specific case I am referring to parent getting involved in adult child's life), then the recipient would also respond similarly - being involved only when convenient. ('cos the relationship is then of convenience, not of affection). That's my view of it.

If you are looking at the general population - you see all models - parents going all out to help and then being ditched, kids being royally exploited by parents, as well as healthy grandparent-parent-child relationships !
Like some of our earlier discussions, perhaps you are looking at specific situations and talking of them in generic terms :)

As far as interference based on convenience goes, selfishness doesn't go away easily. You have the pragmatic and healthy approach towards recipients who respond in a similar manner, and it is a skill I am learning.

On an earlier point you mentioned about healthy, well-to-do grandparents who don't wish to take care of their grandchildren, their children are also likely to be well-to-do. Being well-to-do opens up several options, and children could consider staying consistent in their approach. If day-care as a concept is unacceptable (irrespective of whether the child is selfish or not; children also can be selfish), then putting elderly in homes must be equally unacceptable as a concept.
Tinkerbells said…
Yep, Anu..my opinion only, not generic statistic, but based on my entire life experience (limited) not a specific situation.

So, if child takes help of parents and doesn't help back or when parents don't help and then expect help in return - both are situations I frown upon...Basically a 'do unto others..' approach.

Yea, being well-to-do opens up a lot of possibilities...I totally agree with the last bit - either both are acceptable or both are not acceptable - especially in a place like India where both day cares and old age homes have a long way to go !

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