China To Adult Children: Visit Parents Or Be Sued!

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.

Renee SeptimusRenée Septimus is a social worker and Jewish educator. She lives with her husband Joe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and is the very proud mom of four married children and a savta (that's Hebrew for grandmother) to a (growing) bunch of absolutely perfect grandchildren!

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

Jewish Baby Name Finder


First Letter