It's not a child's duty to take care of their aging parents

By Bui Hien   December 1, 2021 | 11:43 pm PT
It's not a child's duty to take care of their aging parents
A person helps an old woman walk. Illustration photo by freepik
Our children should not be our retirement plans. The best love we can give them is to let them live life to the fullest.

I have an only child, and I've resolved not to burden her with me in the future.

I gave her the best education I could offer and let her live her life, but I won't give her an inheritance. When she received her first paycheck, I threw a small party and announced that we would go our separate ways.

"We will live our own life, spend our own money and stay in our own home. We will no longer depend on each other," I said.

I don't know how that decision will turn out in future, but so far I'm feeling great. I sip coffee in the morning as I read the newspaper, doing all those old people things. And I love it.

I don't fear death itself. Death is the end for me; the cessation of life also means the cessation of suffering. No one likes being old, but learning to accept its inevitability is the key to enjoying its moments. It's only fair that we grow old, for our youth has already bestowed us with radiant health and beauty. The only thing I'm afraid of is a life stretched beyond its expiry date. I shudder at the thought of living for so long that I have nothing left to spend. I hope I would still have something left to spare at the end, so I could go out knowing my life has not amounted to zero.

A common struggle for old people like me is boredom. Not because of how uneventful life becomes, but how our own body betrays us, keeping us from doing what we love. When I was young I could circle three countries in one week, but now even a walk to the local market is a stretch. I used to be a math major, but now simple calculations throw me off. Old age sucks in so many ways I don't bother to recall them.

If even I can't stand how I turned out, how will my child? She has so much potential, so much ahead of her. I am proud to have raised a kind and grateful daughter, but deep down I know I cannot let her bear the burden of taking care of this old hag all the way to the end.

When I decided to have her, I also decided to raise her as best as I could so she would become someone self-sufficient. Then I'd use my own resources to care for myself once I get old. That plan seems to work for now. I'm confident that as long as my mind stays sharp, I will be fine on my own. And when those sharp edges finally dull, I'm willing to put up with the endless diaper changes and confinement to a wheelchair. I won't even mind if she mistreats me. What's there to mind once your brain has gone to mush?

Don't misunderstand the relationship I have with my daughter, we love each other to bits. But it is exactly because I love her that I want her to live life to the fullest. I try my best to not take up too much space, not to let her see how "boring" I have become. I don't force her to call me every day, and I don't need her by my side all the time to be happy. I used to crave freedom in the past, so I want my daughter to have that as well. Even in our separate lives, I believe we'll turn out just fine.

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