They are the sandwich generation, caught in a squeeze between caring for children and caring for parents and wondering when their time for freedom and fulfilling dreams will come.
Lissy Jarvik and Gary Small, both doctors, have written a book for this generation called "Parentcare: A Guide for Adult Children." (Crown Publishers, $19.95.)The book is breezy but factual. As Dr. Spock approached child care, so do Small and Jarvik approach caring for parents. They include chapters on time, money, food (you thought it was hard getting a 2-year-old to eat, try urging your mother to eat), sex, retirement, health care, disability and more.
They recognize, of course, that children can't parent their parents. Herein lies the difference between Drs. Small and Jarvik and Spock.
As they write in the chapter on disabilities:
". . . Parents and child may have had lifelong divergences of opinion that both sides were able to tolerate, but now the child may not be able to implement decisions when the parents have wishes that contradict the adult child's own best judgment.
". . . Having to do things against your better judgment (such as hiring a 22-year-old gorgeous blonde without references, instead of a 54-year-old experienced housekeeper with excellent recommendations) because your parents want them done that way breeds frustration, anger and ill will. And you cannot say to your impaired parent, `Do it yourself if you don't like the way I do it.' The sad reality is that these parents cannot do it themselves and our only solution may be to compromise."
So, much of their book is about compromise. Jarvik and Small teach us to let go and grieve slowly for the loss of our parents' independence, as we will have to grieve for their death eventually.