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Feb 21 2011

China To Adult Children: Visit Parents Or Be Sued!

By at 11:48 am

Hug me, or see you in court

Did you see the news article about China? They are considering enacting legislation to make it mandatory for adult children to visit their parents. You can count on the Chinese for novel forms of torture.

Obvious point #1: This is the land of the tiger moms.

Obvious point #2: People don’t visit people they don’t want to see.

In a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, a woman wrote:

Many will scoff at a law in China to make Chinese sons and daughters visit their elderly mothers and fathers ,but not this now elderly mother of adults who has long railed against the way the best of parents become ‘bit players’ (if that) in the lives of their adult offspring.

I feel sorry for this woman who feels ignored by her children although I think she’s got it wrong. Relationships come from the “top, down.” Just as it was up to her decades ago, it’s up to me, as a mom, mother-in-law and grandmother, to set the tone for the relationship, to be the best mom and savta I can be. I am hoping that “what goes around, comes around,” and that if I am regularly waiting in the wings of my kids’ stages now, ready to play my part when they need me, I’ll be much more than a “bit player” in years to come, too.

When I was growing up, my Grandma lived around the corner from me and was a big part of my life. Our relationship remained close and when I had a baby while still in graduate school, she came to babysit so I could finish my classes. When I finished school, she still “gave me” a day a week because, she said, young mothers need time to themselves. When I moved to a different borough to raise my kids, we spoke and visited often.

During the last 15 years of my grandmother’s life, I visited her for several hours one day a week. We always had a great time. As her world shrank, those visits became more important to her and, also, to me.

When I myself became a grandmother, I’d bring the twins to see her once a week. She would light up and cry, “Savta!” She had pleasure not only from her great-great-grandchildren, but delighted in seeing me in my new role. She told me that she herself had loved being a grandma. I already knew that.

I never visited Grandma out of a sense of duty. I visited her because I loved her. But, too, I did remember all that I had gotten from her and that made me cherish her more and want to give her pleasure, especially as she had fewer and fewer sources of pleasure. I even gave her the death she wanted, a calm, good death. Because, you see, she had given me something as important–her trust that I could, and would, do that for her.

Because she had been a major player in my life when she, and I, were younger, she could never be a “bit player” later. She was important to me because I was always important to her.

The Chinese may make those adults kids come, but they can’t make them enjoy it. And that’s the pity.

As I said to my twin grandchildren, huffing and puffing as I pushed their stroller, “I’m pushing your stroller so you’ll push my wheelchair.” I meant it.

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3 Responses to China To Adult Children: Visit Parents Or Be Sued!

  1. teena says:

    i was blessed to grow up with four doting and loving grandparents. as they got older , i was privileged to be there for them. i take my role as grandparent very seriously,but with a sense of humor, lovingly and truly a blessing. i learned from my grandparents and my parents how to do this. thanks for the memories.

  2. Zelda says:

    How well I recall our conversations about your special grandmother. Indeed when we lay the foundation for our children, they learn from their role models.

  3. homeshuling says:

    While I definitely agree that making visiting parents a law is not the solution, the issue of “ignored parents” in China is typically quite different than what you are comparing to in the US. The combination of the “one-child” only rule, and an economic situation that has forced many of the younger generation to move to far away urban areas for jobs with very low pay and time off creates a generation of elders at risk. I think it’s a far cry (in many cases) from children in a “different borough” who do or don’t choose to hop on the train to visit bubbe.


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