As you may or may not know, I was away for several weeks this summer. My father is quite ill and I went to visit him and see what I could do to help.
However, what you probably do not know, unless you tried to contact me, is that soon after I returned, I went away again. I took all the family away for a few days to a nearby beach resort. I felt I had to pay back my children for disappearing during their summer vacation.
I was not prepared to see my father so ill. Although my brother and sisters tried to prepare me, it was still very shocking. He had lost about 85 pounds in the year since I had seen him last. He was bent and frail. He has probably lost five inches in height, though it is hard to tell since I never saw him stand up straight. When I showed him the pictures of the children he fell asleep between the first and second picture.
Over the course of the trip I was able to change his diet and supplement regimen. By the time I left, he was stronger, had gained weight, and was alert the whole day. He was able to get out of the house several times during the trip, something which he did not do so much before I came.
So all in all, the trip was a success. Although his HMO doctors sent him home to die, shortly after his 78th birthday, he reached his 79th birthday about three weeks ago.
Although I feel that we accomplished a lot and when I left he was doing much better, I am well aware that his condition is not stable and that at any moment things can take a serious turn for the worse.
Whenever the phone rings, in the back of my mind I am always afraid it is going to be that phone call that nobody wants but that eventually everybody gets. Considering my father’s present condition, I feel that this call can come at any time.
I am sure that you can understand that I have every reason to be sad and maybe a little bit depressed. It is very difficult for us when we see our parents old and sick. For most of us, our parents seem larger than life. This is natural. The impending death of a parent is one of the very stressful things that happen in life. So if I am a little sad or short tempered I am sure no one could blame me. I am sure that you understand that. But that is because you are an adult. My children do not understand. Nor would I expect them to understand.
Children see the whole world from their own perspective. Even your older children and your teenagers will very rarely take in consideration the things going on in your life that cause you stress, unhappiness and make it more difficult for you to cope with the daily challenges of living.
Children are involved in the task of growing up. And no matter what stage in their development they are in, this requires their full attention. Not only is this true for your younger children, it is also true for your teenagers.
The stress of growing up for teenagers is probably greater than it is for any other stage of development. So even though we feel our teens should be old enough to understand our difficulties, for the most part we should not expect this.
Recently, I was speaking with a mother who had a mild heart murmur, which occasionally caused her some discomfort. The main symptom she has is that when she is stressed she gets heart palpitations and she needs to lie down.
What concerned me most about this woman was the relationship that was developing with her daughter. She felt her daughter was selfish and callous for not understanding that she feels weak sometimes. She blamed her daughter for misbehaving and causing her stress which made her palpitations come. She resented her daughter and her daughter’s behavior to the point that it was destroying her daughter’s self esteem and their relationship.
“How can she be so thoughtless,” the mother said to me. “Doesn’t she realize that I am sick?”
I tried to explain to the mother that her daughter could not be expected to change her behavior because of her mother’s heart murmur. The daughter just did not understand. However, nothing I could say could help the mother view her daughter as anything other than callous and selfish. In truth, it was this mother who was being selfish.
The mother was destroying her child and their relationship through her attitude and interactions. The daughter was acting like any normal child would act under the same circumstances. It was completely unreasonable for her to consider her mother’s condition and change her behavior accordingly. She just didn’t understand. Nor could she be expected to understand. The girl is only six years old.
So it is true that to an adult I have every right to leave my family to go see and help my father. If I am a bit sad at times that is also understandable. But I know that my children do not understand. My four year old does not understand and my fifteen year old also does not understand. They do not understand the death of a parent. They don’t understand that adults have any problems at all.
My children live in a world where a crisis is when someone calls them a nasty name or makes fun of them. In their world you take revenge by stricking your tongue out at someone. It sounds kind of childish, but they are after all children.
So I had every reason to go away for a few weeks, even if it was the middle of summer vacation. It was something I had to do. I had good reason to make this trip.
But it is understandable for us, but not for my children. In there mind, my absence was unexcused. Therefore, I had to make it up to them. I did this by taking them on a trip, also.