When my children were little and I told them it was time to go to bed, I always got the usual arguments. “I’m not tired.” “I don’t want to go to bed yet.” “It’s not fair that Matt gets to stay up later.” On and on and on. If you are a parent you know the drill. At some point one of my children would say, “I wish I were a grown up!” And I would roll my eyes and say “oh yeah, well let me tell you! There are only two things that I get to do as a grown up that you don’t get to do as a kid. And those are; I get to decide when I will go to bed and what I am going to eat.” All the other privileges of adulthood are laced with responsibilities. Think about it. It’s true.
I get to drive! True I’m now everyone’s chauffeur. I get to buy things. True but I work 40 hours a week to earn the money to buy mostly things we need to survive. I get to go skiing, or boating, or … True but I have to cover all my responsibilities before I can do any playing. So where am I going with this?
Over the years I have said…when I retire I will… sleep in, read books, watch old movies, journal, take walks, visit with family and friends, and so on. Why? Because my life is so full of activities, work and obligations that my time doesn’t always feel like my own. We are taught from the time we are young that productivity means success. It equates to a life well-lived. But man am I tired!
I listen to my mom telling me about her days and think ‘I can’t wait.’ I look forward to the time when I have nothing that demands my time and attention other than the things I simply want to do in the moment. As seniors finally arrive at this stage, look around and begin to choose where they want to put their energy, adult children are pushing them to keep on going. I’ve seen it a thousand times. Mom or Dad simply want to sit in the garden, stay in bed till noon, have a two hour tea, yet adult children want them to go dancing, garden, get up and get going. So my question is: When are we old enough to say no to the things we don’t want to do?
We can’t when we’re children because our parents won’t let us. We can’t when we are in our 20′s to 60′s because we have kids and work to take care. And now I hear that seniors in their 70′s and older can’t either because their kids won’t let them. Are we really that afraid of quiet time? Of contemplation and reflection? Of just ‘being’ instead of constantly ‘doing?’
I invite you to think about that the next time your parent says no to some activity. Give them the right they so deserve. To be the boss of their own time without regret or guilt. They’ve earned it and when you get there, you will have earned it too. Perhaps if we could all see the amazing freedom that comes with aging we wouldn’t dread getting older as much as we do.