When my wife and I were raising our daughters, we learned that we were expected to treat them like we wanted to be treated. We understood that we should help them learn how to properly express their emotions and allow their minds to dream big.

When I pondered this notion, it pushed me to ask one question. Does the manner in which we treat our parents influence the way our children learn to treat us in the future?

During my tenure in law enforcement and the Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force, I knew about older people who were unable to think beyond the television show they were watching. Getting older can present false stereotypes where people believe that all older people have less energy, less ability to work and more mental deficiencies, and that they are totally helpless. There are some older folks, however, who I wouldn’t want to meet alone in a dark alley.

Yet countless older folks are unable to feed, bathe or dress themselves. Their lives are totally dependent on others for their care. Numerous older people still have loving hearts, dreams, desires, wants and needs, but they depend on professionals who care for many others. It seems that some people make life too busy to remember their birthright.

Some parents may be out of sight, but there’s no reason for them to be out of mind. Elder neglect can be considered elder abuse. No one is too busy to help the people who gave them life, nurtured them, and raised them to be the people they are today. Even people who had lousy parents have at least one reason to say thanks.

When I was growing up, both my parents were as dumb as a sack of dirt. It’s funny that when I transitioned from adolescence to adulthood, they went through their own metamorphosis and became brilliant overnight. I rarely made a decision to make a repair or cook food without calling them for advice. If they weren’t available, I called my in-laws. Just like a mutant gene invaded their body, they quickly became old, and even quicker, they were gone. My mother passed in 1993, and that intensified my heartache when my father’s second wife hid him from me the last year of his life.

I know that life while raising our daughters was filled with expectations, tasks, and wishes. I also know that if we had ignored our parents, our daughters would have known. That might have been the curriculum that taught them how to treat us going forward. Children are not robots who can be programmed to care for us in the future. They have their own personality, wishes, flukes and flaws.

Lots of people believe that if they raise their children, their children will eventually return the favor. Sometimes it works out that way, but that isn’t always how life goes, because just being a parent doesn’t automatically guarantee anything. Some people feel obligated to nurture in return, whereas others feel nothing. How we treat our parents says a lot about who we are and how we feel about life.

There are many jokes about the stages of life. Essentially, most of the jokes are based on someone’s observation. “You forget names, you forget faces, you forget to zip up, and you forget to zip down.” Sadly, for many older people it isn’t a matter of forgetting, but rather a matter of having no control.

Does the manner in which we treat our parents influence the way our children learn to treat us in the future? In some cases, children grow into adulthood and become best friends with their parents. When I was a teenager, I heard a couple of buddies referring to their mother as their old lady. That was so foreign to me because my mother was a saint. After going into law enforcement, I learned that being a parent is often simply nothing more than a sudden urge, but being a good parent is a life-long commitment.

Children, like sponges, absorb things from their environment. Many get their behavior from people around them. At various holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, some people leap to be the best child in the world. Many aging parents, however, are needy all days of the year. Showing children responsible behavior by holding a parent’s hand or helping them with food may not provide instant gratification, but it might provide future blessings. Today’s actions could prove to be a good investment for the future.

Charlie Sewell is a retired Powder Springs police chief. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists of Devilment, Devotion and A Little Danger Here and There” is available on Amazon. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.


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