As we approach Hanukkah and Christmas holiday celebrations we can see where even the nearly normal family faces frustration and anger with a dependent older parent.
Families often visit their parents on the holiday and see them in action repeating a ritual they have overseen for years. But what happens when the high priestess cannot offer up the feast?
We will use the brisket and the Gingerbread house to illustrate this point. If an elderly Mom was always a devoted parent, in her role as the head of family rituals (as most mothers are), she probably always made the Crème de la crème of the Hanukkah ritual- the Brisket.
But what if in her aging decline can’t make that brisket anymore? Someone has to take over not just making the latkes or gingerbread house but be the new head of the family ritual, which is so much more than just a gingerbread house. It could be making a menu, dividing dishes to bring, all the parts of the family holiday that someone has to spearhead.
When Mom is dependent adult children can be resentful and even angry. Mom always took care of Christmas and us. Now one of us needs to take over this ritual and all rituals plus take care of her.This is called filial maturity. Most of us never reach it. The parent that nurtured the family now not only need nurturing herself but the family must reorganize and get a new chef for the brisket, baker of the gingerbread house and on a meta level – shift the roles that the parents filled to themselves. This can be gut wrenching. To the nearly normal family and make them angry, aggrieved. Why? It is a whole shift of balance in the family and change is difficult for all systems.
To find out more read Dr. Anne Rosenthal’s chapter on the Nearly Normal Aging Family in Handbook of Geriatric Care Management, 4th edition