Honoring Mom and Dad

The concept of honoring your father and mother is presented in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament. As children we’re taught this means obeying mom and dad and being respectful of them. Clean your room, don’t talk back, do whatever they tell you to do. The focus of most teaching always seems to stop at young children. It’s as though when you turn 18 you’re no longer responsible to “honor” them. Does that requirement really end? Most people would never say it does, but there is definitely a change. What does honoring your father and mother look like when you’re at mid-life and they’re near the end?

I’m in Florida with my parents right now. My mom has been disabled for 3 years because of a pain disorder and severe depression. My father had surgery to remove a tumor from his pancreas 2 years ago. The cancer has returned and last week the doctors gave him 6 months to live. My whole family lives in Chicagoland so my parents have no support system here in Tampa. It’s just the two of them. In my mind, moving back near family for this next (and last) phase of life is a no-brainer. But I’m getting some push back.

They’d love to wait until February or March to move back home. They understand that by that time dad may be too sick to travel, but they really like their house in Florida. The weather in December sure is better in Tampa than Chicago. While it seems they should move back to Illinois ASAP they are non-committal about moving at all, much less doing it quickly. Why?

It took a while for me to realize what’s really going on. For 20 years they dreamed of retiring in Florida. They were going to enjoy many years of sunshine and a slow pace. The beach would be their friend and my dad would be able to grow avocado trees in the yard. Then, just a couple of years into this story, everything changed. They understand the logic of being closer to family during this season of life, but to leave means the end of so much. As soon as the moving truck pulls away from the Florida home it will signal the end of what was supposed to be. More than that, it means this foggy nightmare of cancer is real. Dad is going to die. An earthly marriage is about to end and so will loving relationships with children and grandchildren.

So, how do I “honor” them during this process? Certainly not rushing their decision would be one way. I don’t want to pressure them. But what if they decide they don’t want to move back near family at all? What if this is their new home and regardless of poor health they are staying? I’ll confess there’s some selfishness on my part because I don’t want this to be the last time I see my dad. I’d like to see him a lot in the last months of his life and that’s only possible in Illinois. And I want to make sure he is well taken care of. I can’t do that from 1,000 miles away. But, again, what if they become insistent about staying?

How do you honor your parents when you know what’s best for them, but they don’t want it? When emotion gets in the way of clear thinking? When fear becomes almost paralyzing?

I can’t force them to move back near family sooner rather than later (or never). In the end it’s their choice. And maybe that’s the answer to the big question. Instead of being children who make decisions for our parents and force them to comply or manipulate them into doing what we want, perhaps we should reexamine what “best” really means. Sure, they can get better care in Illinois, but if their hearts, minds, and souls tell them they’d be better all the way down here then maybe we should focus on making that as comfortable as possible. And certainly we should put our selfishness aside as completely as we can. Just because we children see one option as obviously best doesn’t mean they do and doesn’t actually mean it is best.

This post won’t end with a definitive answer and that’s tough for me. I usually see things black and white, but these are the gray areas of life. I’ll pray for wisdom concerning how to best “honor” them both. God’s pretty good at responding to prayers for guidance.



10 thoughts on “Honoring Mom and Dad

  1. He is faithful..(and very good at responding to prayers for guidance). Praying He give you wisdom and discernment to traverse this season in your life…and your parent’s lives…(Donna, EFCA Communications, Minneapols)

  2. You’ve probably heard that adage, “parenting your parents”? Well, that definitely doesn’t happen. Parenting goes one way, from parent to child. It works because children are wired to need their parents acceptance, approval, and love. Your elderly parents that can no longer make it on their own, who have lost capabilities, for whom you must step in and intervene, do not want you to parent them. They don’t need the nod of approval from you for their self-esteem, thank you very much! So, yes, I agree, Cisco, this is a grey area with no easy roadmap. My widowed Mom (who was especially sweet and kind), lived with us for 12 years, but coming alongside to help her as she slowly declined was one of my greatest challenges. God’s grace was evident, however, especially when I was exasperated and beyond myself. I learned that showing mercy has to cost you something, and is an essential part of the plan to make us more like Jesus.

    1. Yes! The fact that the roles are somewhat reversed drives them crazy and makes the situation very difficult. I guess that’s why it has to be handled gently. That’s probably how we truly “honor” them during a season such as this.

  3. Our prayers are with you in this difficult and delicate situation. I was faced with a very similar situation a few years back. I ended up commuting to FL for a period of months to provide and arrange for care. It was a stressful time but well worth it in the end. There were times when I would leave work on Thur afternoon and be back to work by noon on Monday. Not the best , but they were well cared for [by myself and others who I contacted for them], they maintained their relative independance, and I learned a lot from the Lord on the long drives back and forth. We didn’t have the money to fly at the time and driving just worked out better. The Lord will direct you in the best way to make it all work. Now that I am somewhat retired, lmk if I can be of any assistance, should you decide to make the long drive. Your Cisco, IL friend.

  4. Cotto Family.

    As we embark on this phaze of life the most important thing is for your Dads happiness and stressing good times ahead. I know that your parents do not want the roles reverse but at the same time they really want the closeness. I have been in contact with your mom and I feel she does want this closeness with all the kids it will help here to deal with the situation. I am praying for Gods guidance for all of you. Remember I am here should you need me.

  5. Cisco I wish I had some great advice for you in this tough time, but I have none. I know you are a great man and care more than anything for your family. God will guide you and your parents in these days of hardship. I will pray for all of you. Please let me know if I can help in any way.

    Love you all

  6. Cisco my friend, my heart is heavy for you. I went through this back in 2006 with my dad. I learned one important lesson, to honor him most I had to do what is right for him. I had to become the parent and make decisions that were best for his care and not what he wanted. I was able to keep him at home so he wouldn’t suffer the indignity of dying in the hospital which is what he most feared, but I made all the major choices with my mom. I suggest you sit and have a talk with your folks doctor asap. Move them up here with you and make contact with a good religious based hospice group to help you through the end with your dad. We used Heartland out of Frankfort Il 1-815-806-1000. They helped us so much, they were able to let us know what was happening before it happened. It actually cost me my job to take care of my dad but that was fine with me. What is important is to be there for them. My mom now lives with me and I take care of her. I follow up on her Dr. appts. I make sure she takes her pills everyday and eats right even when she doesn’t want to. Please read the book Eldercare, a friend of mine lent it to me and it explains the changing relationship far better than I can. I will be praying for you my friend. God Bless

  7. Cisco, I hear your heart. I feel for u. 8 yrs ago I walked through the letting go process of my mom to cancer. I look at the honor them question in this way. When u were a young child and a teen in their home how wonderful a feeling when u were given the opportunity to do something u really truly wanted to do knowing it may not hv been easy financially or comfort/convenient wise for your parents but they heard your heart and said yes. Your dad and mom hv this dream together. My parents vacation home/retirement never happened even though it was just within grasp 8 yrs ago. Going forward and many years looking back u will say….I’m so happy they had that time together there. Cisco u r doing great work for the kingdom . Thnk u for speaking the truth. I pray God continues to strengthen and direct! Blessings, Missy

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