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Generation Boomerang

08/11/08 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) Commentator Deborah Luskin is a Baby Boomer who says that with children now in their late teens and parents in their early eighties, she's beginning to feel more like a member of the Boomerang Generation.

(LUSKIN) Lately, when I phone my mom and ask how she is, she says, "Good, good" and changes the subject, launching into news about far-flung cousins, their children, even their children's pets, skillfully boring me with trivia. I recognize this diversionary tactic - because I used it myself when I was an adolescent and wanted to avoid too much parental scrutiny. Only now, the roles are reversed.

My three brothers and I were all born in the 1950's. We're part of the bulge in the Baby Boom, that huge population surge dating from 1946 to 1964. According to the US Census Bureau, we Boomers are turning sixty at the rate of about 8,000 a day. And as we mature, our parents age.

My parents have achieved unprecedented longevity for my family. At eighty-three they have enjoyed nearly twenty years of active retirement. They're still healthy, but they're starting to slow down. They were globetrotting skiers until this year; now their days are occupied by the Activities of Daily Life. Nevertheless, they are determined to carry on at home, and we kids are committed to helping them live as they wish.

But we kids keep close tabs on what they're up to. We worry about their driving. We endlessly discuss changes in their behavior, constantly assess their cognitive status, and sound the Alzheimer's Alarm every time they forget something. No wonder my mother has started to practice the very avoidance tactic I perfected as a teen. I suppose it could even be considered a healthy sign of continued mental acuity.

What surprises me is how opinionated the four of us are about what our parents should - and shouldn't - do, and how much we have to curb our impulse to prescribe - and proscribe - their lives.

Our parents, by contrast, were permissive. They were committed to allowing us the liberty to make our own mistakes, and to serving as the safety net when we needed one. At a recent sibling summit, we acknowledged that we kids must extend to our parents the same liberal, laissez-faire consideration with which we were allowed to slink and pout through adolescence.

And this new stage in our family's life does remind me a lot of adolescence - only in reverse. Assuming the role of an adult child caring for elderly parents has a definite boomerang quality to it, especially since my own children are just starting to fledge, and they're watching all of this with interest.

I only hope that thirty years from now, when they're in their fifties and I'm the age my parents are now, they'll afford me the same consideration.

And when it's finally time for me to retire my own skis, I hope I'll be able to do it with the same good humor as my dad. He says, "Old skiers don't die; they just go downhill."
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