When Roles Change

Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

Regardless of how many times someone says “change is inevitable” it can still catch you off guard. Sam started a new daycare last week and it has been a big change for all of us – though ironically the biggest impact is not on Sam, or on me. The most changed and confronted is my mother.

My mother lives with us and has been a primary caregiver for Sam for a year. He has been in part-time daycare but has now transitioned to full time care out of the home. It was an easy decision on my part – he needs the socialization and the activity. The hard part was conveying that to my mother without pointing out her growing limitations.

She takes it personally that she is aging and that her body is failing her. Frankly, she’s pissed. And when she’s pissed, she cries. So in the discussions about moving Sam to daycare full time there were many, many tears. She is sad that she can’t keep up with him and that she can’t be what he needs. She’s sad that she’s not what I need her to be as a caretaker. She can’t believe the costs involved and what that means for me. And at the root of it, she’s outraged that her body prohibits her from keeping her youngest grandchild engaged, busy, and safe. She is scared of taking him to the store because he wants to race ahead and she can’t catch him. She’s nervous about him running away in a parking lot or staging a 2-year-old sit-in when she can longer pick him up. Over the last few months on the days she’s had him, they have stayed in more which meant she was exhausted from trying to entertain and contain the unending energy of a toddler. Many days she would go to bed soon after I came home from work. Whether it was for rest or to avoid the noise of little kids I can’t be sure.

For a while now, I’ve been told that I cannot point out her limitations or remind her of her age. I have endured some wrath over stating the obvious. I bite my tongue when I see she can’t reach the top shelf of a cabinet because she can’t raise her arm straight over her head. And I will go along behind her to move the dishes that made it out of the dishwasher onto the counter and put them in the back of the lower cabinets when I know she can’t bend over and stretch at the same time. She says thank you for those bits of help but we don’t talk about the causes and she sees this as us working together. But her inability to care for Sam in the way she wanted to, the way she thought I wanted her to, has been the limit she didn’t want to grasp.

Over the last two weeks she has stopped some of the crying and recognizes that this is what is best for him. She is also coming to terms with her own guilt over feeling relieved – an unnecessary guilt as most guilt is – that her burden is lessened. I remind her that this frees her up to do the things she talks about wanting to do. In my mind I say the excuses are removed now. Get out there. DO something.

The irony for me is that she’s the one who acts abandoned, not Sam. Sam has this incredible sense of trust that when I drop him off to a new place with new adults and lots of new children, his lunch box in hand and his blanket in a bag, that all is well. He smiles and runs in, knowing in his heart that I’m coming back for him. I think my mother sees us all run out the door in the morning, bags and lunch boxes in hand, and wonders if we’re coming back or if we will continue to move beyond her. A cycle of parenthood repeating itself.

My fear now is that she will continue to isolate. Continue to spend most of her days at home but now without any human interaction from 8:00 – 3:45. Being alone will only further age her, not that I’m allowed to say that out loud. She needs to be more social, she needs to be more physically active and have a schedule.

I gave it a week before I signed her up for the Re-Elect Obama campaign as a local volunteer.

They’ve already called.

The post When Roles Change appeared first on The Next Family.

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