Role Reversal

Me on the slackline getting encouragement from my baby

“Watch, Daddy!”

“Amazing, buddy!”

“Look at this, Mommy!”

“That was so cool, honey!”

The video is old and grainy but the emotions couldn’t be clearer. Kids are taking turns jumping off a diving board in creative ways, beaming as we cheer them on.

Wasn’t it just moments ago I was celebrating toddlers’ first steps? Then arranging fun for ‘tweens? Blink of an eye later, wasn’t I questioning high-schoolers’ Friday night plans?

It all seems like yesterday but they’re over 30 now and I’ve begun to sense a shift.

Pandemic Acceleration

We’ve enjoyed a few years of adult friendship with our kids, interested in each other’s lives without much worry or judgment. Suddenly, though, the virus — and the fact that we live in a state not known for following the rules — turned the tide.

“We’re having dinner with our friend Julie,” I innocently informed them. This was early in the pandemic when there were more questions than answers.

“Where has she been?” my son wanted to know, “Does she still work at a school? Are they wearing masks? Will you be eating indoors?”

I can hardly believe it myself, but I canceled the gathering. It just wasn’t worth them worrying like that.

They watched Covid’s progress closely. Our son lives more than 2,000 miles away, but it was he who alerted us when we could sign up to get the shot.

Falls are no longer funny

I once opened a Zoom call by saying, “Your dad is a superhero!”

“We were hiking down a steep hill toward the top of a waterfall,” I told my rapt audience, “When I got ready to sit down, my foot hit a slippery spot and I fell! If Dad hadn’t reached down and grabbed my arm, I’d have gone right over the falls!”

I waited for the laughter that used to accompany “mom-did-something-dumb” stories but none came.

Instead, my screen showed two worried and speechless faces.

A month later, their dad fell off a ladder. He wasn’t badly hurt but cut his head so we went in for a quick ($6,000!) emergency room visit. I hesitated to text the kids but knew I must. Long story short: “No more ladders, Dad”.

Park day

There are other changes too. Last time we visited Seattle, the kids arranged a “park day.” When I asked what this involved, our son said, “Oh, just random hipster nonsense.”

Inflatable couches were set up and a coffee and pastry run was in progress. Hard to believe these are the same people I once threatened with, “You’re going to miss the bus!”

Their industry reminded me of my arranging birthday parties when they were little. Now they were doing this for us.

Daughter and husband in an exciting RC match

Random hipster nonsense

A slackline is a length of woven webbing strung between two trees. Since it’s less than two feet off the ground and there’s a second line for grabbing, we were encouraged to try. It was hard at first, but my millennial cheerleaders were on duty.

“Don’t look at your feet, Mom! Look ahead! You’re doing great! You’re really getting this!” Was I managing as well as they said? Does it matter?

Next was live-action Rocket League. This fun is based on a video game in which two teams of vehicles play an out-of-this-world soccer match. Six remote-controlled cars and a beach ball set the scene.

Let’s remember, millennials have been manipulating game controllers most of their lives while I, Boomer to the core, have ten thumbs. I could move the RC car forward and back but changing direction while moving proved insurmountable and I got discouraged.

My firstborn consoled, “You’re just looking at what you’re doing wrong but other people are having trouble too. A little more practice and you’ll be a pro!” Is there music half so sweet as loving encouragement?

Virtual Reality headset games were easier and more fun than I expected. Not to brag, but my digital paper airplane went FAR! Then we used virtual lightsabers to keep time with a song. “Good, Mom!” they shouted, “You’re amazing!”

I danced with a cartoon guy who twirled me and clapped when I did well. But it’s the laughter and support of my kids that still echoes and brings a smile.

Mixed Bag

So they have begun to parent us. They watch, worry, and sometimes scold. But they also entertain, encourage, and celebrate us, much as we’ve done for them through the years.

It’s not easy getting older and this changing of the guard requires some flexibility. But it’s not all bad either.

I can hardly wait to see them again.


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6 Replies to “Role Reversal”

  1. Wonderful post! I personally feel that I graduated from the “friend of your child” stage when you first served me amaretto.

  2. I love the role reversal piece that you wrote! This is so true! I just experienced role reversal last Friday with our son Michael. I had not learned to drive my husband’s Tesla yet so my son Michael offered to take me out for a driving lesson. He was a great teacher and I drove the car all around our town! Thank you Michael!

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