Have you ever heard anyone say that you should see your parents often as they age, because one day you’ll regret that you didn’t?

Let’s think about that for a moment:

I understand regret that we should have done something, seen someone more. I think as humans we often wish we had done things differently. I think it’s sort of natural to become wistful and begin with the “Oh if only” dance…

But should everyone see their parents more as they get older?

Or are some relationships meant to be kept at a distance? Are some relationships meant to be a once a month or season kind of thing?

First, let’s look at how you remember someone:

If a parent has gotten cranky, how much time do you want to spend with them? Do you want to make weekly visits to someone who complains about literally everything? Is this the lasting memory that you want?

How about the parent who has lost some of their mental capabilities. Again, how often can you sit with a person who does not remember who you are before it takes a toll on you? Do you want your lasting memories to be of someone who was confused and befuddled more often than not?

Next, let’s think about the level of relationship that you had with the parent. While some people have wonderful relationships with their parents, others don’t. There’s a lot of disfunction on families. Like it or not, some people might not really miss a parent when they are gone because there was so much bad between them, there’s not really anything good to miss.

How often you do, or don’t, see parents as they age is a very personal decision. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer to this question. What brings closure or solace to one person might not be the same way for another. We are all individuals and handle things differently, so I don’t know if we should ever tell someone what to do in this situation. I think we should stop laying guilt trips on people about things they might not feel guilty about. If someone is dealing with a situation, is it right to add more junk to the ever growing pile of doubts and decisions and what should I do’s?

What is good for one person might not be good for another. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they may know how to handle a situation in the best way possible for them.

76 thoughts on “What if you Don’t

  1. I have a very different answer to how often I want to connect for each of my parents. With my mom, I’m happy to connect weekly (and we do). With my dad, once or twice a year is more then enough. Like you said, every relationship is different.

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  2. You make good points. We don’t know the complex details of what someone’s relationship may be like, so again we shouldn’t judge and yes, it may be more harmful than good to visit frequently in some cases.
    I am blessed to have a very close relationship with my parents but I know there are many that don’t. So, there is no rule that fits all!

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    1. It’s a very personal decision as to how we interact. If it causes you stress or makes you sad or angry, you really need to consider what you’re doing

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    1. Oops hit the send before making corrections and finishing my post🤪
      I would have loved to have more years with my mother. The saying “You don’t know what you are missing until it’s gone” is so true.

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      1. This so true. My brother died recently and we had been estranged for about 15 years. I honestly haven’t missed him all these years so his death was more a relief. Sad…

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  3. I agree with your post. For me, my mom is 99, and she had dementia. Fortunately, I have many wonderful memories of our time together, so her dementia won’t be the only one I have. She was a very loving mother. In honesty, I do limit my visits to about 2 hours each time because it does wear on me. However, I want to know I have done all I can for her – as she did for me.

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  4. You bring up two sides of this very complicated dilemma. Obviously, since I am now the matriarch of my family and I’m the old , grandma, not someone else, I want to be seen often lol. But that’s coming from the point of view of having taken the place of my parents who have since passed.

    However, while I spoke to my parents often, I didn’t always see them weekly. As a family we tried to gather for brunch on Sundays. But when my sister and I both had children we had soccer games, cub scouts, brownies or friends’ birthday parties to attend on weekends, so we tried to gather twice a month to visit our parents. While both parents were alive, they always hosted and since they had the largest house and a swimming pool in the back yard it was ideal. . However, after my mom passed and my father moved to a condo I’d see him at least monthly. But only because I worked all week and he moved more than an hour away. He found a senior community around the corner from my sister and so she had him over for dinner more frequently.
    My oldest son was grown and would drive to take his grandfather to lunch a few times a month.
    But my visits weren’t as frequent as they had been, not because my dad was cranky, far from it. It was that my life got busier. And he moved further away. I had another child at 40, worked full time, and did the best I could. Maybe that’s all we can do. Try our best.

    As a widowed grandma I’d love to see my local son weekly, but his job keeps him quite busy, often traveling, running charity foundation functions and events, he also has a podcast that is filmed and televised and so while he calls me several times a week on his way to and from meetings, he does a great job of keeping in touch. My other son lives out of state, calls often and visits on the holidays. Both sons have been there for me during my cancer treatments and have left work whenever they are needed, so I can’t complain about them not being there for me. But I don’t demand or expect them to give up their lives to see me all the time. That would be ridiculous and selfish . Now keep in mind, my local son drives me to and from doctors and chemo treatments so I do see him quite often and he’s always rearranging his work schedule for my medical needs. I hate depending on him for that but circumstances have demanded it when my treatments got intense . So when I’m doing well health wise, I want my son to spend as much of his free time with his wife and kids. They need their dad around .

    But I do understand that it’s difficult to be around cranky old people. They aren’t any fun at all! But still, no matter what ,calling your parents, or visiting them is necessary and much needed for them as they age. In fact,The longer you stay away, the more ornery they are likely to become.At least that’s how my late mother was. She had mastered being passive aggressive to a fine tuned skill. Lol. I kind of get it now, she was just lonely and missed feeling needed.

    I think today’s elder parents ( in their 60’s and 70’s) have busier lives than in the past. However, some people do get really cranky as they age and aren’t very easy to be around. You do have to consider being a good daughter or son, but not at the expense of making yourself miserable. So it depends….

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    1. That’s just it…if it brings you no joy, or makes you sad or angry, should you do it? I don’t believe in the obligatory visit

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      1. Yes, ultimately it’s, “To thine own self be true.” You have to be kind to yourself first and foremost . Women, especially mothers, often have difficulty putting ourselves first. So we feel guilty when we do. We take care of our children and our husbands and often put ourselves last. Then we reach middle age and think…no way am I going to do that anymore!

        My mom died in her 70’s when I was in my 40’s. I was young and vital. My husband was still alive, my youngest was in elementary school, my oldest was working for the Miami Dolphins and Traveling with the team as well as writing for the Miami Herald. I was teaching full time , writing educational grants and lecturing at a local university on how to write educational grants and create innovative programs for teachers and students ,(besides my regular teaching job). So my life was crazy busy. My father died a few months shy of 90 which was years later. I imagine if my mother had been the one to survive him she would have been more challenging to deal with. My choices on how often I visited might have been very different. However, now that I’m in my early 70’s I see things differently. The main difference, however, is that I’m not critical of my children. I accept them for who they are. So they like to visit me. But, I hear some of my friends get very upset by not seeing or hearing from their kids. And I truly feel for them. They are just lonely. But, if I weren’t limited due to health concerns I’d be traveling and not focusing on visits from family. I keep busy so I am rarely lonely, But I have friends who are and who get very hurt when they feel neglected by their family. So yup, there are always two sides to the story.

        But, like you wrote, there’s no right or wrong way to deal with this issue . Each person, each family has to work it out for themselves.

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  5. You speak the truth my friend. The same is true with anyone you love (or once loved) dearly. But not every relationship is (or was) healthy for both parties. I’ve always thought of that phrase as a generality for those with healthy relationships. For those who are lazy with their healthy relationships. If one or the other of your parents were toxic to you, stay away from the poison.

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  6. Good topic. I call my parents weekly, sometimes more often. I see them a couple times a year but they are 1,800 miles away. As you mentioned it is a personal decision. My sister is just 18 mins away and hardly sees or speaks with them. I stay out of it when they mention she can’t take 5 mins to check in on them. They get a confused and forget. Their views on the world conflict with mine but I igonre them. They play favorites with their grandchildren whihc really gets under my skin. The wife & I often feel like we have to play faves with the children to make up for their grandparents. No one said life was easy and families dont help.

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    1. That’s exactly it families don’t help. I have a friend who has a child with special needs. The grandparents sent all the kids a gift except him, because they said he wouldn’t notice. Can you imagine?

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  7. We were all raised differently. Some people are attached to their families like glue and others love their families, but were raised to be independent. Everyone should live life as they see fit and not try to guilt someone else. Those people who try to guilt other people… don’t have anything else to talk about. We should get them movie tickets or a good book, they should get a LIFE. 🙂

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  8. No, this is not a one size fits all situation. Certainly if the relationship is toxic, it might not be in the best interest of the child to visit often. On the other hand, it opens opportunities for reconciliation, forgiveness and grace. I’m struggling with this…not with a parent…but with a toxic sibling. Weighing the pros and cons………..🤷‍♀️

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    1. Lisa I agree with you. Your answer is very enlightened. I think I’m an undying optimist. I will always hope for reconciliation and forgiveness. But that’s just me. I guess everyone has to do what they think is best. I remember being at a baby shower and this one woman who was in her 60’s, was still angry at her mother in law ( who was also at the event) for something she said over 40 years ago. I finally said, “ Don’t you think it’s time to just get over being angry? Your mom in law is over 90. Why are you wasting your time feeling all this negative energy”. She stopped for a second and then went back to griping. I think some people just enjoy feeling miserable.

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      1. Some hurts are greater than others…once words are stated, you can’t take them back…some wounds don’t heal

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  9. I’ve been thinking a lot about that since mom died. While I wish I had done some things differently, and I wish I had had a chance to talk to her before she passed, I think it’s more because it happened so fast. Up to that point I think we had a pretty good amount of contact. Of course I know that she wished we would have communicated more. Many times she said that she thought she was a bad mother because my other sisters didn’t talk to her as much. But you are totally right, each relationship is different and no one on the outside should say anything about it.

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  10. I had stopped seeing my dad when I was in college. He was cheating on my mom in front of her with a staff member. I won’t go into details, but it was an ugly divorce. My husband convinced me that I’d regret not having a relationship with him. I made up with him and to this day have anxiety whenever I’m around him. To this day I’m not sure I should have made up with him, although he was a good grandpa to our kids.

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    1. I am sorry that you had to go through all this. I understand the anxiety because though you have forgiven him, it’s hard to get over the stress he caused

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  11. I agree that it’s a personal decision and isn’t for others to judge. (Though I confess to judging my cousin who has decided to cut his mother out of his life entirely, without explanation.)

    My parental visits are extremely limited for a variety of reasons, not necessarily of my choosing.

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  12. My husband and I took care of my dad when he moved from Nevada to Florida for 2 years until he passed away. He needed us. He was never the easiest father to work with and my brothers did not want to look out for him for a few reasons but we did and I will always be glad for that. I still don’t understand my brother’s reasons but since there is an 8-9 year age difference I figure something is bothering them that I don’t know but at this point I know my husband and I gained and we were the bigger people! Thanks for reading.

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  13. I’ve never heard anyone say that. Fascinating really. Sounds like those people are feeling guilty about something and projecting it onto you. All parental/child relationships are unique. Do what works

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  14. I try to be aware of those people who’ve lost their parents any time I felt like complaining about mine. Not that any of them have said anything derogatory to me if I forgot, but it is a subject I see covered A LOT on social media. Of course, in some cases, it’s meant kindly – but probably not often enough. Sadly any such comments can trigger the old catholic guilt.

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  15. Isn’t it funny how often we assume that our experience is the same as everyone’s? So if we’re close to our parents, we tell others to spend as much time with their parents as possible. But some some people, a little distance is essential to their mental and emotional health. I think it’s best if we just share our experiences with others, rather than telling them what they have to do or don’t do…

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    1. Agreed. And you’re right…we assume that what we experience as children, parents, spouses, siblings is the same. But really…no two people share everything

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  16. My goal is to try to live with no regrets in my relationships, even those that are strained. What can I be at peace with? How one goes about that is personal based on their experiences.

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  17. I agree. I literally just told my husband that I have no desire to talk to my grandmother or aunt anymore…in life, ever. The more I heal from all of the things, the less I feel compelled to check in out of obligation.

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    1. The obligation of the visit must go. My parents got mad because they weren’t invited to the wedding of their grand niece…I said to my parents that they haven’t seen the grandniece in like 30 years…why should they be invited

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  18. I’ve been struggling with this for a while. I call my dad every day and visit once a week. My sister visits him multiple times a week in addition to calling every day. Some of this is due to COVID when we couldn’t visit at all. But every day phone calls have started feeling like a chore. There’s just not that much to talk about!! I often feel like I’ve lost the freedom that’s supposed to come with retirement. Then I feel guilty. When my parents were both alive and well, I didn’t talk to them so often. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had. All I know is, it stresses me out!!!

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  19. I agree! You and I have the same mentality. I wrote a poem once about my family and about how after being hurt because they didn’t want to see me every day and they would get bored of me or start picking fights with me, after seeing lots of things from them that I couldn’t handle, I decided once a week was enough. Sometimes even once every 2 weeks. I decided that loving them from a distance was better for our relationship and my mental health because too much closeness brought out unresolved issues. Same with my grandparents. For year’s I would visit them weekly and I would be criticized for everything I was doing in my life. I would visit them and come home crying every week. I came to resent them. Then I realized that maybe they r picking fights because there is nothing new to talk about. So I decided to visit monthly so that way we miss each other more and we have a thing or two to talk about.

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