The hardest part for any child is to watch a parent work through a terminal illness. Growing up, we think our parents are indestructible that they’re going to be around forever. It’s also hard if as a child, you haven’t had the best of relationships with that parent.
But as children no matter the relationship, we’re expected to do our bit for our parents when the time comes, but children will always have their own reasons for the way they play things. When that time comes, they will approach their parent’s illness differently.
One child may help because they feel they don’t have a choice, another child may be coerced into the relationship through deceived loyalty that starts in childhood, particularly if they’re dealing with a disability.
Another child may see it as their mission to get that parent through their illness, because it’s what they’ve always done. It may also be brought about through guilt, for us to do what’s right, because we’ve been primed and we’d feel bad if we didn’t.
Whatever our initial reasons, it is assumed that when a parent is diagnosed with an illness their children will share a common goal to look after that parent and work together. But instead what often emerges are already formed patterns with no common bond to speak of, patterns where the children’s main interests, unconsciously lie with themselves rather than with the parent.
It’s not that the focus turns away completely from the parent, but how siblings interact, or want they want for that parent will differ, through their individual experiences with that parent. One sibling might be in denial on just how ill their parent is, another sibling might be outspoken on issues that should be inclusive for all siblings, and will simply take over.
But a lot of what we feel in those times, comes from years of hostility brought about through our parents parenting. It’s never on a conscious level, but where parents fail to unite their children, it is obvious.
Family dynamics are very much the reason why, but that said, perhaps children need to see beyond what their parents have done and stand united and make the issue about the parents instead.