Monday, May 13, 2013

Honor Thy Parents? Not So Much for Some

On Saturday, my students surprised me with a lovely party. It turns out that May 15 is Teacher's Day in Mexico, and Mother's Day was Sunday, and so they wanted to honor me on both counts. To say I was very touched would be an understatement. Here are the beautiful flowers I was given... a dozen fragrant, deep pink roses and a pretty orchid plant. There were other gifts, lots of delicious tamales and other good food, and impromptu speeches about how thankful they've been for my help, my patience, and my friendship. They even played mariachi music!

They are such a lovely group of people, and I really did feel deeply honored. None of these people are at all wealthy, but the depth of their generosity always surprises me. I've noticed after years of volunteer tutoring and teaching adult English learners, people from all different cultures, people without a lot of money, that compared to most other cultures we Americans have become increasingly neglectful, if not disrespectful, of our adult parents.

Personally, I am acquainted with more than a few women who I know were great mothers, who spent years making sacrifices for their children. Women who typically are forgotten by their children on Mother's Day, birthdays, holidays.  I know there are lots of good mothers who on Mother's Day were not honored in any way. Usually they don't talk readily about this situation. They put on a brave face, make excuses for their children, and don't complain. Many are deeply ashamed and feel they have failed as parents. They don't realize how common a situation this has become... there are many others in the same boat, but practically nobody's talking about it.

Today's American society just does not put the emphasis on family ties and honoring of parents that existed in the past, and still does in most other cultures. I cannot imagine something like this happening among any of the foreign-born students I've worked with. They would find such behavior abhorrent. True, there are still countless families in the U.S. in which adult children appreciate and honor their mothers and fathers. But from what I have seen, there is also a growing trend towards blatant ingratitude and neglect. And it seems like the better off the children are financially, the more likely this is to be the case.

As one of my friends put it when we were talking about her rather flagrantly neglectful kids, "Out of sight, out of mind." These same children, though, are always ready to schedule visits to their parents' beautiful home, located in a vacation destination area, and even to drop off the grand kids to spend a week  with their grandparents. I think maybe we have somehow managed to raise a lot of really spoiled offspring.

Personally, I had a nice Mother's Day. I was taken for a delicious brunch by my daughter, son-in-law, and grand kids. To say I felt totally honored would be pushing things, though, since my daughter says that she isn't creative about gifts and will need me to give her precise instructions about what gift I would like. I feel really awkward about this sort of thing. I don't know what would be an appropriate price range, for one thing. A card, gift certificate or a bunch of flowers or a plant would have been easier. Now it will feel like I'm asking for something. But compared to what I keep seeing among other women my age, I feel guilty grumbling at all.

For so many older parents, the situation really is heartbreaking, especially those who are alone, divorced or widowed. So if you have friends, or even just acquaintances, who you suspect may be ignored on important days like Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and other holidays - celebrate with them! It won't be the same as coming from their children, of course. But as little as a call, a card, a visit, or even a quick e-mail could help make their day. If some of our adult children have forgotten how to honor their aging parents, well then... I think we should just do it for one other.

No comments:

Post a Comment