Respecting What Others Value

by on May 25, 2016

Respecting What Others Value

Part of head woman with hand to ear listeningWhen you are trained to be a coach, you are introduced to a lot of material about identifying and honoring your own values. And, that indeed is a worthwhile topic on which I have both written in the past, and will likely provide my comments to another day. However, in recent weeks I have become more sensitive to the topic of respecting what others may value at a particular moment of their life. These insights have actually come to me in the following way.

Many of us face the challenge in today’s world of caring for aging parents. Never before in our history have so many individuals lived as long as they do in today’s world. And, this trend is likely to continue as society moves forward. Currently both my own Mother, (who has lived longer in her family than any of her siblings or predecessors), and my Mother-In-Law (who is a marvel at 103 years old), are still fortunately both with us, but in declining health. Both Moms are well enough to still live at home, with the assistance of their children helping them to address their daily needs. However, both my siblings, and those of my wife in regards to her mother, know that it is a blessing each day that we still have them with us.

For my mother who is able to get out a bit with the aid of a walker and a living situation that has eliminated the need to navigate stairs, her predominant enjoyment has come from watching television, particularly game shows. For my mother-in-law who in addition to limited mobility has also limited sight, listening to music from her native homeland in Cuba helps her pass the days. Not so long ago my mother would occupy her days in addition with the television and game shows with working word puzzle books, and some light reading. However, that does not interest her at all any more. My mother-in-law until her recent health issues was able to navigate the stairs in her 3 story house, and actually was still doing cooking and clothes washing until about 18 months ago.

It is ironic that when adult children are now in the role of caretaker of their parent(s), they start tending to view the parent as a child as opposed to the respected adult that they once were, (and frankly should still be). Not all siblings view the relationship with the parent the same and some feel they should be telling the parent how they should be occupying their time. Some may suggest, Mom, why don’t you do this or that. Or maybe even more so, Mom you SHOULD do this or that. While I know they are trying to be helpful, I tend to fall into the other camp. First, sometimes when the older person is sitting there and just appears to be staring into space I wonder, “What are they thinking?” “What is it like to be at their stage of life and deal with what they are facing?” I will contend with every ounce of my being that none of us at my stage of life truly knows, since we are not yet at that point, (ie. knowing that it is not too long before you will be dying, that perhaps all others that were close to you in your generation have passed on before you, being fully dependent on others for your daily needs). Therefore, like any other person, they deserve the respect to do the things they enjoy, (or not do anything but the one or two things they may still enjoy), as they live out their days.

Again, sometimes we don’t honor the values we have in ourselves. However, when our mindset turns to “advising” others on what they should be doing or “knowing what is best for them,” we cross a line that I feel goes too far. Frankly, if I look at my own life closely I can see that some of the things I value today, (experiences with my wife, time to relax in the evening with number and word puzzles, having my own business that affords me to set my own weekly and weekend schedule), are not the same things I valued many years ago. I just have to open my closet every morning to see that. Many of my most comfortable clothes I have had for several years now (they’re still in good shape), as opposed to how frequently I changed them in the past.

Everyone is entitled to value and enjoy that which gives them the most enjoyment. Yes, if they are actually hurting themselves, it is wise to step in to suggest and help them. And, of course if what they value is hurting others, it should be pointed out to them. However, if how they choose to spend their life is working for them, honor them by allowing them to do so. There is a lot to learn by observing those older individuals in our life. I know in my case I continue to learn things from them.

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