Most of us, at some point in our lives, will look after someone whether it is an infant, child, parent or partner. Others do it as a their profession.
I no longer look after my daughter, as she is a young, professional woman whom I equipped with skills to do well in life. I miss looking after her, driving her to school, dance lessons, helping her with homework, dance costumes to sew, her sports gear washed and ready for the next event, sewing name labels on uniform and sports gear, cooking for her, giving answers to questions, discussing this that and the other. I miss her flinging herself on my bed, whether after school or later in the evening. We would chat about school, and she would rough-house with the dog. My bed moved around eight inches in 13 years due to this habit. The dog was always delighted when we were together on my bed, in this mode or both of us watching a DVD later in the evening.
Now I choose to take care of my cousin who has had a breakdown, and a young man I met when I had a mobile phone crisis on Christmas Eve, just when I wanted to be in touch with family and friends around the globe. It took three visits in all to make the correct diagnosis and upgrade my phone but I so didn’t want to part with my beloved, small, familiar phone. In the end I gave it to a friend. And now I love my ‘new’ secondhand upgrade. I refuse to buy every thing new, there is too much stuff on the planet. The young man was consistently helpful and I went in later to say hi. He began to chat with me and I realised he is full of stress and anxiety. His parents were both addicts and he had to leave home as Social Services said he was almost sixteen. His younger brother was taken into care. So his start in life has not been good. I send texts with prompts to remind him to keep trying a breathing technique, or to take a short walk and so on. I taught my cousin how to stop a panic attack. I’ve helped her to let go of stress. Every Sunday I take the young man lunch because he’s on his own in the store and can’t take a break. This ensures that I eat lunch too.
Caring for others often means caring for yourself too. If you’re making food for someone, you’re making food for yourself. If you’re reminding someone to keep trying the deep breathing, you will do it too.
I miss caring for my Dad. It was such a privilege. He gave me a good childhood (my mother did not) and provided everything I need. It’s natural to give that love back. (Not all of us are so blessed, like the young man I mentioned, whilst others throw away a relationship with a parent by causing hurt and distress through bad choices, like walking out of a good relationship because someone from the past decides they want you now). I am never surprised by what I hear about parental relationships, just sometimes surprised by whom that tale refers.