My parents have been making life easier for me my whole life. And given the chance, I intend to do the same for their grandchildren.
Not "easy.” My parents did not overprotect me. They did not swoop in to solve all my problems for me. They did not try to shield me from real life. They did not try to make life artificially painless.
But they made life easier. They still do.
When I text them and ask, "Do you know where I can get some good boxes to use for charitable clothing donations?" my mom shoots back, "We've got some in the attic. I'll bring them for you." And then they show up in the back seat of my car in the church parking lot. (The boxes, not my parents.)
When I'm pretty sure I've blown out the gears on my hand mixer while making a double batch of caramel buttercream, I send it (the mixer, not the buttercream) to my dad to confirm its demise, which he does...and then an hour later, an article about "best hand mixers including some that can handle bread dough" shows up in my email in-box.
When my husband and I needed backups to get busy children from where they were to where they needed to be, with dinner and a stop at home to change clothes in between, my parents jumped into the gap and kept things humming along.
They've made life easier by doing things for me that I can do for myself. (I can get my own boxes.)
They've made life easier by doing things for me I can't do for myself. (I can't add a new outlet on our enclosed front porch to plug in the string lights. But my dad can. And did. Thanks, Dad.)
I hope with all my heart to follow in their footsteps.
I intend to lighten my big kids' loads. I intend to fill in some gaps. I intend to smooth some rough edges. I intend—as much as it's within my power and for my children's good—to do what has been done to and for me. I intend to repay my parents forward.
At some point, there may be a switch. I know grown children who are now doing all they can to make life easier for their parents who can no longer make life easier for them. This is not easy at all. It is the hardest thing they've ever done. These children are trying to make life easier for parents whose minds or memories or bodies or spirits are failing. They are trying to repay love backward...to do what was done for them to and for the people who did it.
Too, I know so many grown children who do not have a story of life made easier to tell.
They have parents who made (and make) life harder for them. My heart breaks and aches for them. If this is you, my heart breaks and aches for you.
But as parents ourselves, we are still writing our stories with our children. We still have the chance to earn this telling by them: "My parents made life easier for me."
This is not enabling. This is not co-dependence. This is not stunting growth. This is relationship. This is love. This is life. It's rarely easy for long. But lived together, it can be made easier.
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen, one young adult) who regularly dispense love, joy, and brutally honest fashion advice. She's been married for 25 years to an exceedingly patient guy she picked up in church. She writes about family, faith, and food (with some occasional funny thrown in) as Guilty Chocoholic Mama on her blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.