Parenting your parents

April 30th, 2008

Shakespeare Sketch

When do we start parenting our parents? All of our lives, we see our parents as invincible. They knew the answers to life and could conquer anything. They knew what was best for you and anyone you knew. What worked for them through life was handed down to you as law.

Then one day, just like a light was switched on, you realize that they aren’t a superhero. That they are fragile and human. That their advice might not be what is best. That they might be wrong about how to handle life and their health. That they, just like you, are scared and don’t know all the answers. They have become vulnerable.

I am seeing a transition in my life now for the care of parents and grandparents. These aging (seriously stuck in their ways) parents used to care for me. Now, I am starting to care for them. Although it is a complete reversal, I don’t look at it as a chore. I look at it as maturing and knowing my place in this universe.

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is As You Like It. In particular, a scene about the Seven Ages. Maybe Shakespeare took care of his elderly parents too?

From the Baird – As You Like It (2/7)

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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