Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When the Child Becomes the Parent

The Internet is full of articles about when the time comes that the adult child must become the parent for their aging parents. When the parents begin to have memory problems, mobility issues and other health concerns. Its a sad and stressful time for many families and something I've hoped I would never have to face but despite my parents' relatively young age I fear this is already happening in our relationship.

My dad is a pretty smart man, he never graduated from high school or went to university but he is smart. He is a logical thinker, diligent and hard-working. He is self-taught and has always been very motivated to learn new things. He is also a very good teacher.

Growing up my dad was the go-to person with homework problems, questions about politics or anything else I didn't understand about life. There was rarely a time when he didn't have an answer for me and more than giving me an answer he loved to challenge me to explain or defend my answer. The man loved a good debate, still does.

But this past weekend, while we were visiting my parents, I realised that the time for witty banter may have passed and we might have to seriously look at placing my dad in a long term care facility. And it's all my sister's fault! She thought it would be a good idea to introduce my dad to Facebook. This decision brought me to the brink of my sanity limits on Sunday when he tried to log on to his FB account for only the second time ever. Thus began one of the most painful experiences of my life.

After wracking his brain and searching the office for 15 minutes he finally found/remembered his log in information. Once on his account he had 60 some odd updates and messages. We explained to him how to read those updates and left him to it. Within minutes he was panicking. He had accidentally clicked on an ad and was taken to a site where a large breasted woman promised that he, too, could have natural looking cleavage.

After navigating back to Facebook, and explaining the difference between ads and updates, we left him to reply to some messages from family. After typing away for several minutes he started to grumble that this was going to take forever. I asked him what the problem was and he said that every time he replied to someone, something else popped up on the news feed. I told him that he didn't have to respond to everything he saw.

Turns out he has been congratulating people on becoming friends, making random comments on people's walls and requesting friendships left right and center. I tried to help him but it was no use. He was all over the place, causing havoc like a toddler in a department store, and having a great time. He kept getting lost in the sea of ads, events, invitations and friend requests until we finally told him that the right hand side of the screen was off limits.

This went on for more than an hour. He left random messages for friends and family members and more than once accidentally requested a friendship with a total stranger. My patience was wearing thin and I finally put my foot down and took the netbook away when he started messaging my mom...who was sitting two feet away from him, returning his messages via her Blackberry. The two of them were cackling like children and getting carried away.  Thankfully only a portion of what they were saying to each other actually made it onto FB so we still have some friends.

Yesh, parents these days!

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