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

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By Sally Torbey

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.