One of the more challenging relationships we have is when we are adults ourselves, and we have elderly parents who need to be parented. Using the scripture we are taught that one of our responsibilities is to honour our parents and ancestors, while at the same time the fulfill our responsibility to our children. When these two require very different strategies we are pulled into impossible situations.
In our household we have 3 young boys who operate at breaking-neck pace. They run rather than walk, wrestle rather than play, shout rather than talk. They are loud, busy and exuberant for 13 hours of the day. In the same household, my father operates at a completely different pace – he sits rather than stands, he whispers rather than talks, he strolls rather than walks, and he savours each bite of food rather than wolfs it down.
How to accommodate the tension between their opposite needs? I use them to balance each other. My father’s tamasic slow and steady way can help the boys to tone down their excessive rajas or exuberance. Going for a walk with Grandad means the boys have to learn to accommodate themselves to another person, that’s a contribution to the field and the family. In turn, Grandad gains an awareness of their need for speed and learns to speak louder and clearer.
It doesn’t come naturally to either of them, and so I am the channel and interpreter of each other’s needs, helping them to understand what the other party is trying to achieve and finding ways to make it possible and unobtrusive.
It’s not easy, to be sure, but it is a necessary part of our dharma as parents, children and seekers of Self knowledge.