“Society treats kids and senior citizens the same,” Rachel remarked to me the other day, and it got me thinking a lot about the truth of that statement on many levels. In the main, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of time, respect, and wholehearted care given to those populations by the mass of individuals who find themselves chronologically between them, even if they are related to them.
Everywhere I look this is evident. And this is why many kids are raised in day care and after school centers, and why many grandpas and grandmas spend the winter of their lives in nursing homes and senior centers.
It has been said that that which is most important to us can be identified by the things on which we spend the most time. From what I can tell, it’s often not family. It’s our selfish desires – our lives, our goals, our hobbies, our comforts, our distractions. And while it’s easy to excuse and rationalize away when we are caught up in work pressures, health issues, household responsibilities, and so much stress and anxiety, I am concerned that we will have a lot of regret at the end of our lives when we take a hard look at the choices we made, and the things we neglected.
I am definitely guilty of this. I don’t check in with my parents as often as I should, and I point to my never-ending list of responsibilities as the reason why. What about you – do you do the same?
I also get annoyed sometimes (although I try to hide it, often unsuccessfully) when my newborn keeps fussing and won’t let me get back to my work or chores or my phone without interruption. Can you relate? Does your kid annoy you sometimes for simply having needs at inconvenient times? What about your significant other?
I do love my parents.
And I do love my kid.
And I do love my wife.
They each want and deserve meaningful love and undivided attention. Heck, we all do. But I struggle to give it to them unless it’s done on my time and my schedule. Unless I am really in the mood.
And even though I would never ignore them or fail to come through for them, the attitude with which I sometimes approach the time and effort I am asked to give them betrays a major heart issue. And specifically, I think it points out that in my mind, my life is way more important than theirs.
I was mentioning to Rachel that from the age of about 20 to perhaps 60, adults (including me) have an aggrandized sense of self-importance. We get so wrapped up in building a successful career, making a name for ourselves, creating a nest egg, having a family, and striving for an idyllic and enviable life that we end up elbowing out anything that slows us down or otherwise seems to undermine our efforts. As if what we are doing with our life matters more than anything else (and what they are doing).
But the reality is that no one is going to really remember 99.9% of us in 100 years. Even though I truly believe my work is important, and that I’m actually saving lives through my research, training, and service activities, no one is going to remember me. Seriously. Not in 100 years. Not in 2117 or 2118 or 2119 or 2120. Yes, I’ll have made a difference in the lives of others, and that difference absolutely does matter, but I’m not going to be in a US History book, and you probably aren’t either.
And so with that in mind, it seems incredibly arrogant and pretentious to keep excusing that fact that I don’t give my absolute best to my parents or my kids or my significant other because my work and life goals are too important. They aren’t, compared to them. And it’s likely yours aren’t either. I don’t know you, but the odds are that you are probably fooling yourself.
The thing is though, I understand the struggle. I do. It’s often easier to give our best to our jobs and obligations instead of our families. That’s true in my life, at least. Why? I think it’s because I have more control over work stuff, and less control over family stuff because their hearts and feelings are involved, and they want my actions and words toward them to involve my heart and feelings. And sometimes that is exhausting, and that means I’m not always in the mood to give them my best.
In addition, we often don’t see immediate, tangible rewards from pouring into our family, like we do in our work each day and each week. Familiarity without constant and visible rewards seems to breed contempt, I guess. It’s just tough. But I have always wanted to be able to say that regardless of my professional successes or failures, I gave my family the best of me. I’m trying to keep that goal first and foremost above all other goals, and let my moment-by-moment decisions each day be guided accordingly. And I’m trying to deflate my aggrandized sense of self-importance by remembering that my loved ones matter so much more than the things I’ve spent my life pursuing.