There's a lot of buzz out there recently about what love means; what composes a healthy relationship; and what it means to appreciate and value another person. All of this comes in the context of a movie, which was made after the release of a series of bestselling books. I will admit I did not read the books, and I will not see the movie. It just holds no interest for me at all. But the brouhaha it has created has peaked my interest a great deal, although not for the reasons you might think.
You see, while a great deal of the buzz and brouhaha has been about romantic relationships, I think we need to have just as impassioned a discussion about the relationships we have with our families, our parents, or others we love in a familial rather than a romantic way. Do we really know how to love those people, or would it be a good idea to examine ways to show love in family situations as intently as we seem to analyze our romantic involvements?
Yes, my business deals often with the aging population. So I am passionate about how families treat their older generations. I rarely hear, however, buzz or brouhaha about what we are doing right or wrong. So, just as is always the case, I have my own ideas, and I'm not afraid to share them!
In a dating relationship, behavior of ignoring and making excuses not to spend time together is considered manipulative and emotionally controlling. In relationships between aging parents and adult children, society tends to see this behavior as a byproduct of busy lives and naturally shifting priorities. I disagree. I believe as our parents or other loved ones age, we need to realize our presence is even more important in their daily lives. Research is clear that continued activity, social engagement, and involvement in family life extends life expectancy, keeps brain function vital longer, and enhances quality of life in measurable ways.
In a romantic context, making every conversation about something you like and planning every activity around your own interests is labeled self-absorbed, selfish, and even narcissistic. Within our own generational households, the same tendencies are seen as completely acceptable. Why shouldn't mom and dad want to go to dinner at 7:30? That's a perfectly civilized time to eat out. And as long as we're shopping together, why should it bother them if we make a few extra stops to run those errands?
I'm not saying adult children deliberately disregard what is best for their parents. I'm saying we all (and I absolutely include myself here) need to think just briefly before we plan. Most people as they age tend to want to eat slightly earlier and have very specific preferences about where they eat. During peak meal times at restaurants, ambient noise can make it difficult to hear the conversation they want to hear. And trust me. This is one thing I can say with absolute confidence: when your aging loved ones are with you, they want to hear every word you have to say. Even more importantly, they want to believe you have heard every word they have said. But don't forget, they might tire a bit more easily, so scheduling with that in mind is better for them.
I am not naive. Some would even say I am overly cynical in the face of many issues. I know that families don't always have choices about how much and what kind of time they spend together. Generations are scattered hither and yon, much to the detriment of intergenerational interaction. But families can find options to help. And, of course, I believe our service offers the very best of those options.
My primary point, though, is to focus just as much thought and consideration into how we love our parents and grandparents and siblings, as into all of the buzz and
brouhaha about how we love in our romantic lives, or how someone in the movies expresses romantic love. If you never believe another word I write, believe this: the time you devote to being with or planning for your aging loved ones is time spent you will never, ever regret. It is what they did for you without creating any buzz or brouhaha at all.