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Parenting Your Aging Parents While Your Teenagers Parent You: COVID Vaccine Edition

When Covid-19 vaccines became available, I strongly encouraged (a close relative of nagged) my parents, who live out of state, to figure out how to get access to them. Small problem: Even though my dad spends most of the day on his computer, he’s hardly tech-savvy. I learned this when I discovered that he was trying to connect his router to his computer with an old telephone cord. Nevertheless, in comparison to my mother, who until a few months ago refused to have Wi-Fi on her phone, he’s a savant.

Needless to say, the transition to virtual life during the pandemic has been tough for them. While they have gotten the hang of Zoom and FaceTime, they’ve been unwilling (a close relative of unable) to take advantage of any of the opportunities that exist to keep them safe like Instacart and ordering takeout. In large part, these seemingly convenient procedures exceed the range of their digital comfort and expertise. Besides, there is only so much parenting your aging parents that a person can do.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that trying to sign up for a COVID vaccine caused confusion and frustration. My mom called me daily to complain about their unsuccessful efforts. Sometimes, they spent hours on hold trying to get information. Other days, they got directed from one site to another, an endless labyrinth that seemed to lead nowhere.

I offered to pitch in and check things out, but they persisted, determined (a close relative of stubborn) to do it on their own.

A week or so later, my mom forwarded an email they had received from a friend of theirs—a miracle in and of itself as she only recently acquired this skill. Their friend confessed that their daughter had been the one to secure them their “golden tickets.”

The time seemed right to once again ask my mom if they wanted some help, and this time, she welcomed it. She successfully forwarded the most recent email that she had received from the county. It turns out that registration for vaccines, which required filling out a pretty detailed form online, would take place at noon in a few days’ time.

As I went over the directions and tried to identify the most expedient strategy to get them registered, my kids intervened. I may not know how to work our television, but I like to think I know my way around a computer.

But in my kids’ eyes, I was a liability, and they felt the need to parent their aging parent.

I couldn’t disagree, and what’s more, I was completely willing to swallow my pride if it meant getting a COVID vaccine for my parents. As Mom in the middle, I welcomed their help.

At 11:30 on the day of, we gathered with our devices at the kitchen table to review the questions they would have to answer on the form. We identified user names and passwords, selected security question and responses, and reviewed birthdates and phone numbers.

As the clock struck noon, the portal opened. Less than a minute later, my kids had both of my parents registered. Less than 24 hours later, my parents received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine (a close relative of hope). Three generations for the win.

There’s been so much talk about how this generation of teens and young adults lack so many skills. Many contend that they struggle with eye contact, face to face communication, and talking on the phone – and they’re not wrong. But let me say that when it comes to dropping everything to fill out an online registration form for their grandparents, they have the nimble fingers, the fast brains, and the big hearts to get the job done.

Jody Podl

Jody has spent her life around teens, as a teacher and as a parent of three.

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