Mom has a bad knee, but that doesn’t stop us from making multi-generational memories to last a lifetime. Months ago, when I asked Mom to accompany me on a trip to Alaska, she said, “Sure, I’ll come if you really want me to go with you. I don’t move very fast anymore because of my knee. Are you okay going slow or waiting for me sometimes?” I assured Mom that her slow pace was not a problem for me and we planned our once-in-a-lifetime mother-daughter trip to Alaska. What Mom didn’t understand about my invitation for her to travel with me was that I love traveling with her, despite any special accommodation requirements, because her very presence gives me so much.
7 Lessons Aging Parents Teach Their Children & Grandchildren
Even though my mom and I differ in activity level and even in personality traits, that doesn’t stop me from being grateful for the many lessons that she unknowingly teaches me. Maybe I appreciate the lessons learned from Mom because I’m looking for them. It could certainly be possible to miss these lessons if a person were not looking for them. However, when we deliberately search for teaching from our parents, no matter how old we are or they are, there are always lessons that can be learned. Here are just seven of the lessons aging parents teach their families.
1. First, identity is born in the family setting. Aging parents, especially mothers, give their children increased identity. Mothers usually hold the heartstrings of their children and family members for life due to the nurturing role they’ve had in everyone’s existence. This forever tie to mother gives a child a sense of security as they go through life. Obviously, if the bond is not correct, this could also be detrimental to the child throughout life.
Aging parents, like my mom, are known for telling stories from days gone by. That is one of the best things they could do. I know some older people think that the younger generation will be bored with their stories, but that isn’t true. Stories from the past are always relevant to the identity of the next generation, even if they seem boring or not impressive. Stories about the past give us understanding about who we have become and why, and they remind us that the people we are talking to have had a profound life journey, just like we’re having.
Stories don’t just give us context for our lives, but they also give us vision of who we want to become. Aging parents show their posterity who they want to become. Even if the parent isn’t perfect, they still give their families inspiration to move in a productive direction.
2. Second, when life starts moving slower, priorities are much more obvious. The older generation offers the younger generation a view of what’s really important. When career and thrill seeking are no longer the top time takers in a person’s life, then what priorities come into view? Family, people, God, and condition of heart all seem to top the priority list of the aging person. Suddenly, time with family becomes the most important part of their lives. That is a great reminder to a busy father or young mother. Family time is actually the most fulfilling time of all.
3. Third, aging parents get the opportunity to empower the next generation by being an example of strength during adversity. When the body starts slowing down and even falling apart in some cases, this can seem like a burden or something to be afraid of to a young person. But, an older person that goes through that stage of life with confidence and courage destroys that fear and offers powerful perspective of the inner strength that never leaves us, no matter what is happening on the outside. When I’m with Mom, I see her do more each day than she thought she could. How does she do it? She keeps thinking that she can. She keeps telling herself that doing more is possible. Thank you, Mom, for this powerful perspective that undoubtably will help me in my future life.
4. Fourth, slowing down is good. Our fast-paced society uses words like ‘hustle’ and ‘multi-task’ to motivate and increase speed. But when we can’t hustle or multi-task as easily, does that mean life loses its impact? Nope. In fact, the impact is greater. When I’m with Mom, all the little things seem bigger. I recognize challenges more, but I also recognize the blessings that I might’ve otherwise taken for granted. Slowing down is a blessing to be grateful for. In Alaska I found myself grateful for things like alone time in an elevator, quiet time on a bench, and extra steps needed to go up a steep incline. Bonding happens best during the slow times.
5. Fifth, aging parents and grandparents create fun, unique memories that last. Silly memories with Mom in Alaska include things like spilling food on a shirt, getting hands stained purple on accident, having a car ticketed for finding a ‘closer spot,’ dipping her hands in the ocean off the side of a whale watching boat, and laughing in the middle of the night that we saw the Northern Lights even though we stayed at the car. These memories will stay with me forever. If I ever hear talk of the Northern Lights, I’ll think of that night with Mom.
6. Sixth, understand small things. Some small things, like aches and pains, don’t matter. But other small things, like a desired photo at the moose antler arch, free ice cream at night, and a road-side view of the tallest mountain in North America, do matter. The aches and pains are temporary and shouldn’t get the attention. The memories being made are forever, and, however small, need to be important.
7. Seventh, love is a choice that takes time to cultivate. Have I loved my mom since birth? Absolutely. Affection toward a mother is a very strong bond. But, being in love with Mom at any given moment is a choice. We both have to choose to love our time together in order to have a good time. We both sacrifice and do more so that we can spend quantity and quality time together, but it’s all worth it. We choose love again and again despite our different personality traits. My mom spends her days choosing to love people. These constant choices give everyone who knows her a feeling of importance.
The Best Mother’s Day Gift
Often when we think of mothers, we think of the young women enduring sleepless nights and work-filled days to keep her babies happy, healthy, and morally strong. Mothering changes over time in some ways, but not in all ways. There are still sleepless nights born out of concern for others or physical difficulties. And days are still filled with work. Just like when her children were young, an aging mother has to mentally muscle through hardships as she serves and loves the people around her. She lifts society as she did before, but now she is the second witness for the moral upbringing being taught by her children. And, sometimes that second witness is just what the world needs to understand the truths that really lead to happiness, health, and freedom.
This Mother’s Day season, remember that the gift your mother or grandmother has worked her whole life for is you. Your presence in her life is the greatest gift of all. It is the fuel behind her work and provides the strength to keep her going and influencing for good. Your presence in her life is the greatest gift you could give. Give time this year. Visit or call, and when you do, learn lessons from her. Ask for stories and make memories that will keep you both going during the hard times that will certainly be ahead.
Read Nicholeen’s best selling book “Roles, The Secret To Family, Business, & Social Success.”