Post #56 Dispatch From Saugerties — Parenting Your Parents

Sue Sanders Reports:

I talked to my parents a few days ago. My dad said he’d just gotten a haircut. For a split second, I thought he’d gone into town. But he assured me it was at the “Barb-er-shop”, that's my mom — Barbara. She had cut his hair at home. Thankfully, my dad is still doing two things quite well these days: bad puns and social distancing. It hasn’t always been the case with social distancing. Not too long ago, my sister and I had to have a coronavirus intervention with our eighty-year old parents.

Our folks are in great shape and probably healthier than many Americans half their age. They do yoga, hike vast distances and walk daily. They’re involved in more clubs than a high school overachiever buffing up his resume for college. But we were worried as they weren’t taking the coronavirus threat as seriously as they should have been.

They live in an active retirement community in Arizona, surrounded by other retirees, many of whom believe the coronavirus is overhyped, nothing more than a bad flu. It’s a bubble, a staunchly Republican one. And, like many staunch Republicans, they and their friends get much of their news from Fox. (Which explains why they didn’t take coronavirus seriously in the beginning of the pandemic.) 

We’re not the only adult children who’ve had to perform an intervention. I'm posting this in case you need an intervention for your older Republican parents. If so, here’s what we did: 
  1. We hit them from two sides, like a battle on two fronts. From Kenya and New York (where we live) we called, emailed, and texted — a trifecta of communication, times two.
  2. We said we loved them but their behavior was putting them — and others — at risk.
  3. We told them Fox news wanted them to die. It downplayed the coronavirus for far too long, while its parent company took it seriously, encouraging employees to work from home. Rupert Murdoch even cancelled his 89th birthday party! And now the network is telling older people they should sacrifice themselves to the Gods of the Dow. With a news source like that, who needs enemies?
  4. Even though I’d vowed never to send news links to them, I did, sending articles from what people like them call “the mainstream media.” We call it fact-based reporting.
  5. Discovered I couldn’t stop with just one new story and sent them several more.
  6. We encouraged them to get coronavirus news from reputable sources. I sent links to the New York Times and Washington Post, which both have free coronavirus coverage. 
  7. We told them: No, going to friends’ houses for dinner parties is not social isolating; 
  8. No, hiking with friends is not social isolating;  
  9. No, going to the grocery store is not social isolating; 
  10. No, shopping for a new dishwasher is not social isolating.
For a few scary days, nothing seemed to get through. We threw our hands up and commiserated, but then we decided since we had no choice, we would have to deploy the ultimate weapon in our arsenal: the Grandchildren. They called and texted, offering grandparents equal parts love and guilt. 

When I spoke with my folks after our intervention(s), they proudly said they’d done yoga YouTube videos instead of going to class. I praised their behavior (positive reinforcement!) and immediately texted my sister Operation Intervention was a success! 

We keep checking in to make sure they’re listening to reality, not Fox news, which seems to want to kill them again. I think they get it. They like living, too. Many of us who are parents know how hard it is. Sometimes, parenting your parents can be even harder.


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