New Law Forces Grownup Kids to Visit Their Elderly Parents

Say What!? 6

call homeI've always had a thing for Harry Chapin's classic song, "Cat's in the Cradle," mostly because my Dad and I used to sing it (and every other Chapin song) together during long rides in his truck. But since becoming a mom, the song about a dad who never has time for his son has taken on new meaning for me. I don't want to be that parent. And when my kid grows up, I don't want her to be like the son who never has time for his dad.

Chapin once said the song scares him to death.

I think it scares us all, scares us so much that China recently passed a law requiring children to visit or keep in touch with their elderly parents.

Imagine that, just for a second? Would you want it to come to that?

Would you want your kid to be forced to come spend time with you?

I know I wouldn't!

I would like to think that the kid I'm raising would want to come hang out with me ... just because. Not to get money. Not to keep a lawsuit at bay. Not to keep the government happy. Just to eat my chocolate chip cookies, chill on my couch, and chat with me about shuffleboard or Bingo or Gertie with the blue hair rinse down the lane (wait, not Gertie ... Jennifer, Amy?), whatever it is I'll be interested in chatting about in the future.

But I'm not going to just sit around hoping the lure of my cookies and my sparkling personality will be enough to make her pick up the phone and call her dear old mother.

It takes work that we have to put in now, while our kids are still in the house.

It takes stepping back and remembering that we only get our kids for about 18 years, so we might as well make the most of those 18 years, go to dance recitals, kick a soccer ball around the backyard, drive them to the mall just because ...

It takes recognizing that we chose to become their parents, not the other way around, and we need to give them the best childhoods possible because that's what they deserve out of us.

I can't help but worry that one day my daughter will be like the kid in the Harry Chapin song or like one of those kids in China being forced to call dear old mom and dad. Still, worrying about it has forced me to look at the difference between parents who are close to their adult children and those who are not.

I've noticed the latter group tends to act like everything they did in raising their kids created debts that now need to be repaid. You know the type. You've heard them say something like this:

"I was in labor with you for 28 hours, so I don't really care if you're doing your homework right now. The least you could do is make me a cup of coffee!"


"I let you get a driver's license, young man, so you HAVE to drive me to my cardiologist appointment every Thursday afternoon at 3 o'clock and to hell with your boss who can't understand why you have to leave in the middle of your work day. I'm your MOTHER!"

Would you want to hang out with a woman like that? Me neither.

I vow never ever to say anything like that to my kid. Ever. Ever.

And if I do, she can stop calling. I promise not to sue.

Do you worry about your kids not wanting to spend time with you when they're grown? What are you doing about it now?


Image via John Starnes/Flickr

issues, tough topics


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mande... manderspanders

Jeanne, you NEED TO GO TO WORK IN A NURSING HOME.  Nursing homes are necessary, but quite frankly, plenty of families really do just "dump" their elderly family member their until they die... Maybe they call at Christmas; maybe they will visit when told that dad is dying and you need to be here.  Alot of times, though, the kids are just "too busy" to even bother to see ol mom and dad in the home.

I understand this "law" is in China... but good god.  Seriously, it is VERY common for families to treat their elderly parents and grandparents as useless, worthless, and disposable. This isn't a matter of parents requiring their adult chidlren to do for them - This is about the fact that, barring exceptionally extreme circumstances, adult children DO have a *moral obligation* to do their best to care for elderly parents (even if it means placement in a nursing home), to ensure their needs are met when their parents can no longer advocate for themselves, and to just care about their wellbeing.

Vanessa Poholek Fasanella

I think it is horrible that a law like this is required, but people have no respect for each other nowadays. i hope that this helps a lot of families.

keelh... keelhaulrose

I come from an incredibly close family. We live with my parents (they need help due to health issues, we're paid back with room), and my grandmother lives ten minutes away, we see her at least once a week. I have even worked as my grandmother's caretaker. It's something you do for family, and it's a value I hope to instill in my children (my grandmother, despite being in a wheelchair, takes my older daughter one afternoon a week).

My husband, on the other hand, had a father who abandoned him when he was a toddler, and I don't think he got over it, especially since he treats his new wife's children so well. It wasn't until husband was grown that FIL even tried to connect with him, and he still owes MIL 17K in child support. When FIL had a health scare earlier this year my husband wasn't sure he wanted to make the two-day drive to see him. My husband loves our children, and would do anything for them, but I don't think his father is much beyond his sperm donor.

I personally would never forgive myself if I didn't spend time with my elderly family members. But I also think respect is earned, not owed. I can't say it's automatic because people have circumstances that aren't black and white.

nonmember avatar Dayton

@keelhaulrose I agree with you. I go and see my mother once a year (we live in two different states) and I love her to pieces. and I believe that one of the true staples of a good parent is that they do not make their children feel like they owe them something. i don't owe my mother anything. I do what I do (send cards and flowers and call her twice a week) because of the kind of parent she was and is to me. If she were a horrible parent, it would make me resent her if i had no choice but to go and see her. Children should not be made to go and see their parents especially if their parents caused them any harm or neglected them for all their lives.
I didn't meet my own father until later in life. Why should I be made to go and see him if I don't want to? He didn't contribute anything. i think this law is horrible.

Sara Cunningham

So what about victims of child abuse? Should a daughter whose father raped and beat her have to keep in touch with him just because they're blood related? This law can fuck right off.

nonmember avatar d davies

Jeanne this is not a subject you should discuss. You haven't seen your own mother in over a year; worse, your daughter hasn't been allowed to see her grandmother either. Hypocritical of you. As parents we are never perfect, just humans doing the best we can in life.

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