Trading Places: A Continuing Tale of a Family Living in the Sandwich Generation

One of the most basic aspects of being a part of the Sandwich Generation is that the children become the parents and the parents the children, except for the children of the children, they are still children….you see how complicated a life we live. Yes, my parents have taken on, in many respects, the characteristics of my children. Since we still have four children living at home, then my wife and I are interacting with 6 people who are at different life stages, some are maturing physically and emotionally and some are regressing in both areas.

For instance, my Dad was once a really great driver. He could drive long distances without a single stop. He could avoid any obstacle. He even was a trained ambulance driver and had amazing reflexes…but not anymore. Riding for more than an hour hurts his back. Driving at night is dangerous. The insurance company isn’t thrilled about him driving either. At the same time, my teenage daughter is becoming a really good driver. She is safe. She doesn’t like to have other people in her car because she really likes to focus on driving. The insurance company still isn’t thrilled with her skills yet, but her rates will go down while my Dad’s will go up. It’s a struggle whenever either one drives away.

My youngest daughter takes everything in and remembers things that blow me away.  My Mom has dementia. Mom is often unaware of her environment. Her short-term memory is spotty at best. My daughter is learning new skills every day and improving in her ability to communicate. My Mom is headed in the opposite direction. One is learning how to better care for herself while the other is quickly forgetting how to do so. It’s an emotional time for all of us.

My children are taking on more and more responsibilities around the house, both out of necessity and because they need to learn how to do things. They are maturing and part of maturing is learning how to work, do chores, and help each other. My Dad and Mom need help with things that were once a breeze for them. Some of the things they have forgotten how to do and other things just have become too difficult. The children are growing in their helpfulness and my parents are regressing. It’s a difficult dynamic.

Folks on the outside looking in, including my siblings who don’t live nearby, cannot fully appreciate the daily changes happening in our household. My children are growing up and facing new challenges each day, as well as new opportunities. My parents are aging and facing new challenges each day, and their opportunities are shrinking. Still, we do our best to embrace everything with a good attitude and handle the challenges and opportunities with grace and enthusiasm. If I’m being honest…it’s a real struggle, but God gives us enough grace for each day.

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

Timothy (Tim) Gunnells started his blog "Desert Spiritual" while living and ministering in the desert in Arizona. He knows the world in which we live is a "dry and weary land where is no water" and souls are thirsting for God (Psalm 63:1).Tim currently lives with his family in East Tennessee. He is available for retreats, leadership development seminars, and church consulting. He enjoys hiking, singing, spending time with his family and friends, and blogging about Christian spirituality, culture, and life in general. He may be reached at timothygunnells@gmail.com.