How to cope when the shoe’s on the other foot

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019 6:00 am

I’ve got amazing parents who took wonderful care of me when I was a kid, and I’m forever grateful to them for my happy and relatively carefree childhood.

I knew I could always rely on them, and that’s still true today.

I’m 41 years old, but I moved back to my hometown so I could be close to my family; unfortunately for my parents, that means they’re still on call.

I’m sure my dad was overjoyed during Hillsboro’s deluge a few weeks ago when I called him because my husband was gone, our sump pump alarms were ringing and I had water pooling into my basement.

But he didn’t complain. He just assessed the situation, told me not to worry, hugged me and headed back into the downpour.

And my mom still comes over to check on me whenever I get an owie, like when I sliced open my thumb and didn’t know if I needed stitches, or stubbed my toe and couldn’t tell if it was broken.

She isn’t actually a medical professional; she’s better. She calms me down and kisses my boo-boos, which magically makes things at least a little bit better. 

But I’m not getting any younger, and I’m seeing more friends who are dealing with aging parents.

Don’t get me wrong, older parents are still parents. They still call to make sure their kids – now in their 40s and 50s – are safe at home during blizzards, and they still pick up the check for the family dinners at Perkins. Because that’s what moms and dads do.

But my friends and I are getting to the point where our parents may start needing a little more help from us.

Maybe Dad’s knees are wearing out and he can’t mow the yard and shovel the driveway like he used to.

Maybe Mom’s eyesight is failing a bit and she needs someone to drive her to her doctor appointments.

It’s inevitable; eventually the tables will turn and my parents will start asking me to help with all the things I’m used to relying on them to do for me.

I’m not looking forward to that. To be honest, I’m terrified – and I hope it’s a good long while before that happens. But when it does, I’ll do my best to be there for them like they’ve always been there for me. 

And in the meantime, I’ll pay homage to my mom and dad by doing my best to emulate even a fraction of their parenting talents with my own child.

I’m a little biased – and I certainly don’t give all (or even most of) the credit to his parents – but things seem to be going pretty well so far.

My son just turned 10, but he’s a mature 10 (I think; I really have no basis for comparison) and I ask his advice on a lot of things. 

He’s always got good feedback for me – and no shortage of opinions. And he likes helping and taking care of other people.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was getting ready to leave for work. I had an injury to my right foot (better since Mom stopped by to check on it, obviously) and had been scuffling around in a surgical shoe for a few days. 

But I was determined to wear real, big-girl shoes to work because I had a meeting that day and wanted to appear professional.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” my 10-year-old observed as I struggled to pull on my right shoe. “You’re clearly in pain.”

“It’ll be OK,” I told him. “I’ll get used to it.”

“You need to wear the surgical shoe,” my son reiterated.

“I’m sick of that ugly shoe,” I said (OK, whined). “It’s fine. Just toss a yogurt in my work bag for me and I’ll take you to school.”

A few minutes later my foot was on fire. I hobbled into my office, eyes watering, cursing my cute but impractical brown booties.

I sat down, kicked off my right shoe and dug into my bag for my yogurt – and found not only my breakfast, but also my surgical shoe, packed by my well-meaning fourth-grader who clearly knows what’s best for me more than I do sometimes.

I felt grateful. And a little silly. But mostly proud.

I may struggle with things when life comes full circle and my mom and dad need me as more of a parental figure in their lives than as a needy child.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll be in good hands – and comfortable shoes – when it’s my turn to ask my own son for help.  

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