A few months ago my dad came to visit us. We decided to take a day trip up to Louisville to go to the zoo. When we went to pay for our tickets, my dad requested for a “Senior Citizen Ticket”. I laughed at him and thought he was trying to pull a fast one on the cashier so he could get a discount. My dad asked why I was laughing and I told him why. He said “Anak (Baby), I AM a senior citizen.” My laughs turned to tears as I realized how old my dad had gotten.
My parents immigrated from the Philippines in the late 70s. A few of their relatives followed, but it was mostly just my little family. Growing up my parents always worked hard to provide a better life for me and my sister. During the work week we barely saw them and on the weekends they were busy doing chores or errands around the house. However, we did spend a lot of time together when we took family vacations. As I grew up, got crazy with my extra curricular’s in high school, had no time for anything, went to college, had no time for anything, got married, had kids, and had no time for anything. I realized I’m so busy living my life and growing, that I forget my parents are too. They’re still working hard but they come home to an empty house. Living on the opposite coast as my family is especially hard since we’re in different time zones and schedules. We FaceTime once a week on the weekends so they can see the kids and we can catch up, I add photos to a shared PhotoStream so they can get a snapshot of our daily activities, they visit us when they can, we visit during the holidays, but that’s about it. Our interactions have dwindled to once a week FaceTime calls to me chasing the kids around forcing them to talk to my parents, sporadic photo uploads, and a handful of visits a year. There would be times where Jay was deployed, I was busy with kids, cooking, and chores, that when my parents call, I just let it ring. I am so busy trying to get things done in the small window of time that I have that I choose not to answer my phone. I’m a jerk, right? You can say it. I know it. I’m sorry Mom and Dad.
As “grown ups”, we are so busy living our lives, living for our kids, living for our spouse that we forget OUR parents lived for us. We take our parents for granted, I know I do, because we think they’re going to be around forever. I, personally, still feel like I’m 22. I feel like my parents are in their late 40s, and we’re just living life day by day. It wasn’t until my dad said “I AM a senior citizen” that it hit me, our parents are not immortal. I’m married, with kids, with a degree and I still have to call my parents because I’m confused about insurance or I forget what step comes next in a recipe. Now, I try and think about what it’s like in their shoes – how would I feel if I called my kid and they didn’t answer. I’d be concerned. A little mad and understand that they were busy. As a parent, we need to be more mindful of our relationship with our parents. Kids watch and imitate everything. Make more of an effort to talk and catch up with your parents. Let your kids talk and catch up with them too. Not only will that make you happy, your parents happy, and your kids happy, your kids will continue to do that when they grow up and have kids of their own.
Are you busy and your parents call? Pick up the phone, talk a little bit, but tell them you’ll call them back, and actually do it. Increase your weekly phone calls to twice or three times a week. Are you in different time zones and schedules? Send a quick text telling them you're thinking about them! Are you lucky to live in the same city as your parents? Invite them over. Take your parents out to dinner. Watch a movie together. Cook for them. Take pictures with them. Take pictures of them. Take pictures of your kids with them. I know our lives are busy. I know we’re growing up, living life, making memories, and growing old – but so are your parents. Make sure you take time to spend with them.