There is a general consensus that, between daughters and sons, the former take better care of their parents. I have heard people opine that, in parents’ sunset years, girls usually help more boys.
“Daughters always remember where they came from; sons rarely do,” a female leader once told students at a girls’ school. “Daughters always return home to help. That’s why we must educate you.” This leader narrated her story. She came from abject poverty. In all her father’s children, she was her family’s saviour.
That is her story.
Heart matters. There are other stories. Stories of daughters who abuse their parents, like they are meting vengeance for childhood traumas that were inflicted on them. I know of a daughter who, several years ago, forcefully discharged her sick father from hospital, dumped him in his home and swore: “He is not my problem. I’ve returned him here to die.”
Who is God? That old man is still alive. What about that daughter? She’s dead. Dead inside. And there’s no worse corpse than one that’s going through the motions of life.
One the other hand, I have a friend who is Atlas personified. He is the only son in a family of six children. Atlas has singlehandedly carried the weight of his family’s world on his back. His parents have never lacked. Sometimes he sacrifices so much to the point where he denies himself of personal needs.
Atlas’ parents keep asking themselves what they would do without him. And the irony is that all his sisters hold better jobs and earn more money than him.
I believe that, when it comes to helping one’s parents, it is all a matter of heart and not gender. A heart of stone knows no sex. Neither does a heart that is immensely moved by the suffering of others.
Honour and love
I also believe that, as children, we are not helping our parents when we take care of them. We are just doing what a child ought to do; honour.
“Honour thy parents” – which is from the Decalogue – is a lesson taught to Sunday school children. But we are all children. Which is why this lesson should be a guiding principle on how we relate with our parents, throughout their lives.
Honour doesn’t end when our parents die. After they are gone, we honour their memory. We honour what they stood for. We honour their impartation in our lives.
Honour is a doing word. When we honour our parents, we take the initiative. I learnt a long time ago that initiative is doing the right thing without being told. As a sibling, initiative means giving your all, and not getting side-tracked by siblings who are merely paying lip service or nothing.
As children, we are not giving back to our parents but giving love. If we love our parents, what we do unto and for them will not be a chore but a privilege. It’s an opportunity to do something special and enjoyable to people who are special to us.
At times, when one sees the hell some children are putting their old folks through, one may be afraid. And you may start asking yourself if that’s the ill treatment waiting for you when your sun dips in the west and your shadow becomes long.
“Will they love me to death or leave me to rot like a heap of garbage?”
“Will they walk beside me to my resting place or kick me to the kerb?”
As a man, I am learning that it’s up to me what I put in my child. But what comes out is out of my hands. It’s like pouring paraffin in a lamp. It can light a room, fill it with smoke or burn it to the ground.