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The Circle of Life from the Perspective of an Adult Child: Tag, You’re It! 

Tag, You’re It!

By:  Christian Randolph

One would think a relationship between a parent and child has clear boundaries.  The path through life would be systematic, wherein the eldest child would have the rite of passage to leadership, boast the ability to make executive decisions, call the shots, and willingly accept the charge of being a deputized mandated reporter.  The youngest child would get a free pass on making major decisions, due to their youth and not fully developed judgment.   Regardless of the hierarchical position in the family tree, we sometimes discover we’ve been found, we’ve been tagged – and now we’re “it.”

Children love to play games, and I specifically remember Tag and Hide and Seek being my favorites.  Fast forward from your childhood, say 30 years to today.   Perhaps there has been a loss of one of the parents, and/or a significant health decline has begun to take its toll on one or both of them.  The vibrant, independent parents you once knew have now become less active, lonely and struggling to make it on their own.  They may have not prepared financially for retirement because they were rearing a family, paying for piano lessons and college tuitions.  In their minds, retirement was light-years away, and they had plenty time to prepare; except they didn’t.  Our parents don’t want us to know that they’re in a predicament, so they hide it.  Their decline is hiding in plain sight, but they’re the strong matriarchs and patriarchs, so surely, this is not happening. They compensate, they “make it work”, but deep down, that 6th sense keeps you up at night worrying about them. We have busy careers in the prime of our lives.  We’re raising our own families and our spouses or significant others don’t know how to help.  The guilt has brought us to our wits end and we have begun to experience depression-like symptoms ourselves, such as fatigue, sadness, changes in sleep, and changes in mood, to name a few.  Does this sound familiar? Tag! You’re it!

Being “it” means that the daunting task of finding solutions for our parents, while maintaining their dignity and input, rests heavily on our shoulders.  In our minds, they gave us their all, and now it’s our turn to repay them – but how?  We don’t know their wishes, and truthfully, we’re afraid to ask because deep down we really don’t want to know the answer.  We are now preparing to jump into the deep end of the pool just like when we were little, but this time….the ones that used to catch us are now the ones needing to be caught.  Hundreds of questions and scenarios engulf your thoughts; praying that you will make the right decision.  Every scenario seems worse than the one before it.  Perhaps you are an only child.  Perhaps the siblings you “shared everything with” live far away, they’re extremely busy, self-involved, or overwhelmed with their own lives.   You present ideas, no one agrees.  You offer options, none of which are acceptable to all parties.  It’s time to regroup and look at things from a different perspective.  We can repay our parents by determining the most immediate need, and reaching out to qualified individuals who can help.  Being “it” does not mean that we have to do it alone; however, it does mean that we must do something.  There are many resources available to help us navigate through the process; however, we must take the first step.   Knowing our parents are safe and getting the additional support they need is the most “grown up” decision we can ever make, and it will be the best night’s sleep we have had in a very long time.  Have a courageous discussion with your parents and discuss their wishes and preferences.  If they are not able to be a part of the decision making process due to physical or cognitive decline, make your decision based on what you know to be true.  There is no one more qualified to make an informed, thoughtful decision than a dedicated adult child with the best intentions.  Tag! You’re it!

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