Has Covid-19 brought about a role reversal in Jane’s family?

Jane’s family, her three grown-up children, have suddenly started to treat her as the child in the family as a result of Covid-19 and the emphasis that the over 60’s are the vulnerable ones. Her story is one that may ring true with many of us who are over 60.

It was a face time call from my son that brought home to me the fact that the pandemic had dramatically changed my relationship with my three grown up children.

“I hope you are getting your five a day Ma”, he said at some point during the six-minute conversation.

“Aren’t I supposed to be asking you that?”, I replied and, although he grinned, I got the impression he was more irritated than amused. In fact his tone, during the entire chat, was, to say the least, patronising.  He was, for example, anxious to know that I wasn’t going above my 14 units of alcohol a week (in lockdown, as if?!) When I suggested the possibility of a family reunion in my country garden he shook his head and muttered something about how ‘of course’ he would love to come and see me but it really wasn’t a good idea because he ‘didn’t want to infect me’.

This last comment really infuriated me, not just because Rufus had the virus (mildly) way back in March, but also because I had heard something similar from both his sisters during a recent family zoom link up. 

© Jonathan McHugh 2020

The truth is that all three of my London based children – in the wake of the Coronavirus – have started to parent me in rather the way that I once parented them.  They have pushed me, prematurely, into a second childhood that I had hoped I wouldn’t hit until I was at least 90 (fingers crossed). In their eyes I have entered Shakespeare’s seventh age of man in which I am ‘returned to a second stage of helplessness’ and it absolutely infuriates me!

Six months ago I was their ‘Mum’, someone they still occasionally turned to for advice or sympathy but since late February – when increasing age was identified as a major risk factor for developing severe complications and death from Covid-19 – they have become overly protective and, yes, patronising towards me.

Why, my first-born Bryony, now openly refers to me as her ‘elderly mother’ in a voice that makes me wonder how long it will be before she has power of attorney and I am shunted into a care home.

And while, of course, it’s lovely to be seeing more of them (albeit on a screen) and it’s very kind of them to care about my wellbeing I am beginning to resent the way they have started to tell me what to do – and most particularly what NOT to do. 

I know how lucky I am to have my three fabulous children – and my adorable 7-year old granddaughter Edie – at the other end of my laptop during this difficult time but I can’t wait for the pandemic to end so that hopefully we can get back to the way our family life used to be.  To the good old days when I urged them to get their ‘five a day’ and not the other way round…

Jane Gordon