Family of Origin Issues

Any family of origin issues that have not been resolved will only be exacerbated as parents age. That is another reason it is good for eldercare to be in family. The issues cannot be avoided or ignored but must be faced head-on.

One example of this surfaced soon after Mom and Dad came to live with us. When we were children we had to finish every morsel of food on our plates because there were children starving in India. (I never did figure out how my eating helped them, but it did give me my first lessons in guilt.) It didn't matter if we were full or not, those kids in India were counting on us. So the first time my parents shoved their plates away with food still on them and declared they were full, every terrible childhood memory of sitting for hours at the table until I finished eating came rushing to the surface. I was totally surprised by the level of anger I felt. When they then asked what was for dessert, I had to leave the room before I lost it.

That was my first experience with "do as we say, not as we do" and it brought back a flood of other memories from childhood. The little girl in me was shocked by how unfair it all was. I felt betrayed by the "system." And it was only the beginning of many other times when childhood memories came face-to-face with the reality of today. These were things that I thought had long ago passed from my life and yet there they were, with emotions as real as the day they originally happened.

Memories were not all that surfaced. Any dysfunction in sibling relationships only gets worse as parents become more dependent on their children. In addition to navigating memories and emotions, sibling interaction became a source of discord and strife. My vision of one big happy family sitting around the camp fire together was evaporating before my eyes.

All I can say is that family of origin issues pick up where they left off in days past. Every issue is revisited. If interactions were good, they pick up in a good place. If they were strained, they pick up exactly where they were before. Add to that the issues of wills, who gets what, how finances are spent for their care, etc., etc. and you have great potential for problems if everyone is not on the same page.

As all these issues began crowding in on us, we tried our best to deal with them. I began gritting my teeth and when I broke off two front teeth at the gum, we decided it was time to get a different plan. We began to ask what purpose God had in all this. As usual, He did not start with others but began to deal with our own hearts first.

Family of origin issues are at the root of every interaction we have with those around us. They affect how we react to our spouse, our children, co-workers, and just about everyone else in our lives. What we experienced as a child and how we learned to deal with it established patterns in our lives that we walk in today. They are so familiar to us and are so much a part of us that we don't usually recognize them. Having those patterns suddenly exposed to the light can be shocking. We then must choose to defend them or to take the opportunity to establish Godly patterns in their place.

We brought Mom and Dad to live with us for their sake, but little did we know that God had plans for us as well. I am now learning to deal with my reactions, perceptions, and determinations that I experienced as a child. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."  Sometimes God has to bring us face-to-face with the child in us who is making decisions for us today based on events of years gone by. It is then that we can, through His healing touch, put away childish things (emotions, demands, reactions) and mature as He desires. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us that gift.

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