I didn’t ask to be born

I didn’t ask to be born. Sounds like something you’d hear a pouting, sullen teenager say but there’s actually some truth to it.

Sidney Poitier’s speech to his dad in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was perhaps a more palatable version. Paraphrased, he says that when people make a conscious choice to have children, they bear the responsibility for those children–at least until they’re no longer children. The kids, on the other hand, do not have a similar moral obligation to their parents because they made no such choice or commitment.

Of course, that’s not a license to write off Mom and Dad when they become inconvenient or annoying. It would take a pretty rotten son to do that, assuming the parents were loving and took care of him. But it does suggest that the children maybe shouldn’t feel quite so guilty if they don’t drop everything and devote their entire lives to caring for their aging parents.

Yes, I’m talking about myself and my parents and my need to set ground rules and boundaries. I’m obviously going to do what I can do for them. I am not, however, going to give up my own life (career, sanity, etc.) in the process. Many people have that nurturing instinct and can spend hours patiently caring for and entertaining and just generally enjoying older people. I am not one of those people. I do not have that instinct, even toward the parents I very much love. That’s why I had the presence of mind not to have children. Call me selfish, but I’m only willing to devote so much of my time to this.

I’m not going to move in with my dad. I’m not going to visit my mom every day. I’m not going to drive thirty miles each way to Greensboro every single weekend after already doing it five days a week too. I’m not going to give up vacations. And I’m not going to sleep with my phone turned on and resting on the night table waiting for a crisis.

Of course I’m going to visit regularly and spend time with them. And I’m fully willing to manage the business end of things. I’m more inclined to succeed at what I can do well that fail at what I know I don’t do well at all. Does that make me a bad person? Tough. At least I recognize my limitations.