Excerpt from Chapter II
Chapter II Dynamics for Growing Together
Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.
David Ogden Stiers
Care-giving, giving-care: Semantics right?
Wearing my logical-rational lenses at the outset of caring for my Mom worked well or so I thought until I was challenged to answer her question “what would you do?” That question completely demolished my usual approach to problems by posing a question that was seeking a different type of response. Her simple but direct question meant that I had to expand the boundaries of logical-rational to include doing what was most appropriate for living life not just surviving breast cancer. Answering it challenged me to think about what I wanted for both of us. In doing so, I realized that care-giving and giving-care are two fundamentally different practices. Our intergenerational roles got reversed so I became the decision-maker in this care relationship. That shift converted me into the grown-up and as the grown-up I had to make decisions and take actions that were satisfying to both of us. Meeting her care needs meant extending the care she needed in the way she needed to receive it while simultaneously taking action the way I felt I should. Performing that balancing act taught me that sometimes the way we think a need should be met may require a different perspective. When a loved one needs care, it’s important to be still so that we can hear what she needs, not just what we think she needs. Being the grown-up allows you to consider her as a person in order to ensure that she gets what she needs from you the way she needs to get it. Recognizing that dynamic helped me think differently about care-giving. Care-giving is the role we assume when a loved one is in need of care. It often comes with a neat package of steps and strategies for performing tasks that focus on protecting a loved one’s physical, emotional and sometimes financial security. Care-giving teaches you which foods conflict with medications; how to provide a safe living environment; maintain an ample supply of clothing, dressings, and other necessities; and conduct other activities of daily living as needed. Pretty straightforward. However, giving-care is the set of actions we take to fulfill that role in ways that are satisfying to both persons. The difference between the two processes is care-giving is what you do for your loved one; giving-care is what you do for both of you.