Issues across the ages: this too shall pass | Two Decades of Kids and Counting | Sally Torbey | Palo Alto Online |

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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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Issues across the ages: this too shall pass

Uploaded: Mar 27, 2014
A few years back I found myself with toddlers, teens and aging parents in my life. In dealing with these life stages simultaneously, I was amazed by how much they had in common!

Hallmarks of these three stages are the pressing need for independence and the fierce resistance of any effort to prevent a violent death. In toddlers this manifests itself as a refusal to hold hands when crossing a busy street, and in teenagers it is being missing in action at 3 a.m. With the elderly it manifests itself as an utter disregard for pleas to slow down while cruising at top speed off the sidewalk, upending a 300-pound motorized wheelchair.

Another manifestation of this need for independence is the universal phrase, "I can do it myself!" This phrase is heard from toddlers navigating play ground equipment designed for 10 year olds, teenagers procrastinating on college applications, and aging parents who repeatedly get lost returning home from the mall, but insist they are perfectly capable of driving themselves five hours to Yosemite.

Interestingly, no one protests when I clean up after them, be it toddlers' toys, teens' laundry and ice cream bowls, or my parents' kitchen infested with pantry moths that have been happily feasting and reproducing in dog food left over from a visit two years ago.

A shared interest across these life stages is locking doors. Toddlers find it amusing to lock themselves in the bathroom, especially after moving to a new house where no one knows how to pick the lock, so the door has to be taken off the hinges. Teen age girls are adept at communicating their opinions by slamming their bedroom doors, and aging parents find locking (and bolting) their apartment door to be an effective way to let caregivers (whom their children so considerately hired) know their services are not welcome.

A lot of energy is spent dealing with medications and doctors' appointments. With toddlers, it is hours experimenting with everything from ketchup to caramel sauce to make a nasty tasting antibiotic palatable. The teen years require incessant vigilance to assure they are not experimenting, and with aging parents it is the selection and organizing of pillboxes, typing of medication lists, and frequent visits to specialists that lead to more visits with more specialists. Toddlers are at the doctor every other month for vaccinations, and teens every 6 weeks for orthodontia.

Personal hygiene issues are ubiquitous. Toddler do not have the manual dexterity to wipe their noses, and they howl when it is done for them, but the magnetic properties of snot assure that their entire faces are coated with grime whenever they have a cold, which is always. According to teens, if they are immersed in pool water, it counts as a shower, even if no soap or shampoo is involved, and the only event worthy of shaving facial hair is prom. With aging parents, as mobility challenges increase, daily bathing and laundry become optional activities. There are caregivers that can assist with these tasks, but that would require unlocking the door.

With the issues across the ages so similar, I marvel that I haven't become more proficient at managing them! Eventually, though, toddlers go off to kindergarten, teens leave for college, and elderly parents realize their lives are enhanced by hiring cheerful, strong, professional helpers. When confronting these challenging life stages, I try to stay sane by remembering this too shall pass.
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Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm

My oh my, Thank You, Sally! I laughed so hard at this one I thought I was going to need a strong, professional helper! Erma Bombeck Lives!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, PR, for sharing a laugh with me!

Posted by BLH, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm

This too shall pass sounds like an excellent mantra. I'll have to give it a try.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks for reading and commenting! Let me know how it works for you!

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Great point that no one complains when you clean up after them. Love your humorous perspective.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi CherylBac,
Thanks for seeing the humor in it!

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm

There is so much truth in all this and it helps to keep a sense of humor.

I remember a few years ago when my mother and I were watching my father's health deteriorate. I patiently watched her as she started to do more and more things for my father and offered help when I could. She felt that doing what she could for him was what the "in sickness and in health" part of her vows meant. We discussed how looking after him was just the same as me looking after one of the toddlers as basically the same had to be done. She rarely complained and explained to me that she saw the only difference as my toddlers were going to gain more and more independence as he lost more and more of his. Keeping his dignity was something she tried to do as he deteriorated and when she finally had to give up and get some professional help the hardest part was her sorrow at not being able to give him the help he needed when a stranger was doing some of the most personal things for him. He probably felt it too, but was unable to communicate that.

Through all this, the "This too will pass" mantra kept us going. Unfortunately the passing of my father was what came to pass, but since his quality of life was so poor, it really was a blessing in disguise. But the positive part was that my mother's life was able to restart. She now has a wonderful quality of life doing things she hadn't been able to do for many years with my father. Her guilt is now non-existent as she knows she did all she could and most of her grieving was done before he died. She enjoys life and lives for the moment putting her needs first for the first time in her life. One day things will change for her I expect, but until then, we continue the mantra of This too will pass and enjoy the memories she is making for our future.

Keep on doing what you have to do and definitely keep your sense of humor as you do it.

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Sally you have found some remarkable similarities across the ages, and created quite a hilarious piece with it! It is good to know that we maintain at least one acceptable function in life... the cleaning. And, I must say, with all the practice I have become quite skilled at it!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thank you, Mother of 4, for sharing your mother's story. Your story really resonates with me because it reminds me of my parents and how they cared for and supported each other through many health challenges. They had been married just short of 62 years when my father passed away.

Thank you, too, for the reminder that challenges and joys pass too quickly and to cherish each day!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Debbie, your comment made me laugh out loud!

Posted by Maria, a resident of University South,
on Mar 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Thank you for sharing, you are genuine. I love reading your blog.

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Mar 28, 2014 at 8:56 pm

You covered a thick slice of life here!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 29, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Maria!
Thanks so much for your support!

Hi LJ,
Yes, never a dull moment!

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Mar 31, 2014 at 11:38 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

A big problem is finding "cheerful and strong" caregivers, and to that I will add "honest." Caregivers stole jewelry, clothing, kitchen items, and all manner of items from my mother, who, fortunately, was oblivious to their thievery. I understand this is very common, but good heavens, how low and loathsome.

Posted by lindaloo, a resident of Mountain View,
on Mar 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

So true, Nora Charles. Sometimes the more cheerful, strong, etc., the more dishonest. This happened to my grandmother. My parents live in an upscale facility nearby with wonderful care; still, I keep a close watch.

Very amusing and uplifting piece; thank you!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 31, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Nora Charles and linda loo,
Thanks for reading and commenting!
We had a different problem. Due to dementia, my mom would misplace things and then blame the caregivers, only to have the items turn up later!

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Apr 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

My mother was bedridden, so we knew things were being taken. I'm only happy that she was unaware of what was happening. Fortunately, in the last year of her life my father found a wonderful caregiver, whose praises I cannot sing highly enough.

Posted by GC, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm


Thank you for sharing... I cracked up about locking out the caregivers! We can add the analogy of "barking" at the caregivers when things aren't exactly how they would wish it. Woe betide this household and the caregiver if there is no OJ or bacon on the table for breakfast!!

PR had it right about Erma Bombeck lives... exactly what crossed my mind.

Thank you for talking about the stuff that we deal with but don't say. I was having a bad day today and I went looking for your blog to feel a bit better. You gave me something to smile about. Thank you.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Apr 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, GC for reading and commenting! Right now having a caregiver preparing breakfast (and doing the dishes afterwards) sounds pretty good, but when the time comes, I'll probably be just as ornery about accepting help as my parents were!

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