Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. ~ Rumi
I hear it all the time. Literally, every week, if not more often. It is the slightly grown up version of “you’re on my half of the backseat!” Do you remember those arguments with your siblings? There is a myth out there that as we age within our roles as the sibling of we will have built in support and help for our aging parents. I mean, after all, isn’t that logical? Maybe you and your siblings were lucky enough to be close by and as you got older you shared in family gatherings – your kids, their kids, the grandparents could see all at once. It was great! Until somehow it wasn’t. Everyone got older and history took its toll on the family.
Straight Up Honesty
I’m here to say loudly and clearly that just because you have siblings doesn’t mean you’ll have built in support or back up when it comes to your parents. If you’re an ‘only’ with no siblings that just doubles your fun…or stress…or area of possible resentment. Back to those sibling sets for a moment. If you’re the sibling who lives closest or who perhaps has a profession to which some level of respect is automatically conferred; doctor, dentist, lawyer come to mind most quickly, there is the belief that you will step up in that area first and with AUTHORITY. If you’re the swooping in AUTHORITY (as in your live out of the area) you’ve got a double whammy because the expectation might be that you drop everything to swoop in, do your ‘thing’, make it all better and are then expected to go away again. Can you see the problem here? Regardless of distance there’s going to be a problem and an even division of labor isn’t possible.
Let’s start with the close-by sibling. One might think this sibling is the one who ‘wants’ or ‘enjoys’ being so available. Perhaps but not always. Their proximity might be due to circumstances beyond their control or the realization that raising kids in the area makes it tougher for them to leave the area. If you match up proximity with AUTHORITY there’s a good chance someone is going feel resentful quickly. If you’re that person it would be my suggestion that you set boundaries quickly and lower expectations about what you can or want to do moving forward.
Now to the swooping in sibling. This isn’t an easy role either. This is the sibling that may feel tremendous guilt or concern that they’re not doing enough or are not present enough for either their sibling or the aging parent. If you’re the Swooper it is helpful to use technology to your advantage as well as those Skymiles you will be building up quickly with dog food and trips to Home Depot. Facetime, Skype or other video conferencing will allow you to stay in touch and to literally see a little bit of what’s going on. It is helpful if you, as the Swooper, can get in for visits not just for emergencies but also for ‘time together’ visits. Coordinating with your siblings, if relations are good, so that you can come in and see your parents, perhaps participate in an appointment for a haircut or to go to PT or to make a few meals for the freezer can help ease the tension you all feel about your not being more present.
A variation on that theme are the siblings who all live close-by and yet due to any number of fissures in the crust of the family, are not on the same page about how to manage situations or problems as they arise. This is the dynamic that makes me most sad to see. We have so few people in our lives who have known us for our entire lives and the idea that we would partake in any actions which would cause a rift is just really too bad. There are times when there is no repair to the fissures, and that needs to be respected, but there are other times when it might be helpful to put aside any hard feelings to be revisited at a less emotional time.
And then there’s the Only. While on some levels this can be useful ~ no one to argue with about how to handle things ~ unless you’ve got a willing partner nearly every detail will fall to you. This is where planning between you and your parents will become beyond critical. The more you know about their hopes, wishes, desires and fears, the easier it will be to carry those out and respect the fear; guessing is no fun. There is no ‘even steven’ with Onlys so we’ll just leave it at that. If you’re an Only I will more strongly then ever urge you to TAKE. CARE. OF. YOURSELF. Got it? Was that clear enough? Because really and truly, you can’t be there for your parents if you’re not there.
As you can see there are many, many more issues to tackle as we look at Sandwich issues but I’m going to wrap up our first look with this post; there will be more to come but next week we’re going to do something fun and light because you know, it’s summer and sometimes you’ve got to have some fun!
Wishing you all the best for your week!