Diane Lapkin, a retired provost of Salem State University, was on the phone from Florida, where she winters. “I didn’t call her back today,” she said. “I wasn’t up for it.”
“Her” is her oldest daughter, back in Massachusetts, and “it” is the daily lecture about her perceived inadequate coronavirus preparation.
Yes, Lapkin and her husband are still seeing friends and movies (she loved Emma), but her bridge game has been called off, and there were only eight people on her recent tour of historic Sarasota, and no one even seemed sick.
“She goes on and on with the same story about sterilizing this, wiping that,” Lapkin said. “I try to calm her down a little, but she’s so much more worried than we are.”
Call them Boomer Teenagers or Disobedient Parents or Senior Delinquents, one thing is clear: the original helicopter parents are now the subjects of the hovering, and many are proving ungovernable.
Is it any wonder that Adult Child Twitter is on fire about older parents who won’t listen?
“Who at NPR will volunteer to tell my 74-year-old mother who just got over breast cancer that yes, it’s worse than a flu & she doesn’t need to be going to book clubs all over town & water aerobics & Costco for no reason?” @jdesmondharris tweeted. “She won’t listen to me but she’ll listen to you.”
The March 11 tweet generated more than 45,000 likes in just a few days, and even the responses were getting hundreds of responses.
“Lol my bff’s parents lied to her and told her they were staying home," @lizzieohreally tweeted, “then went out to play in a bridge tournament.”
@ForkKnifeSpoon wrote: “My 70s+ parents were prepared to board a cruise ship with G.Keillor in 7 days (don’t get me started) until it was finally cancelled today."
“I was so relieved after talking to my mom because she was taking it seriously (sanitizing everything in site, practicing social distancing including telling her grandchildren see you when it over),” @AJ_Indiana tweeted, “and then I called her back later...she was at the casino.”
At 68, Len Fishman, director of the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said older people “don’t want to be infantilized,” but, he added, “the whole idea about a public health crisis is that we have to look out for each other. It’s perfectly fine that kids are nudging their parents.”
But one person’s “nudge” is another’s “noodge.”
In White Plains, Irene Kohn was admonished by her daughter, a Brookline resident, for picking up her new car from the dealership, even though she wore cloth gloves and spritzed bleach on all hard surfaces.
Describing the dynamic, Kohn chose her words carefully. “We have a very caring child who is a public health expert so we’re getting a lot of ... input,” she said.
“We feel as if we are not in denial, so some of the input is just reinforcing decisions we’ve already made, and some of it we feel is micromanaging.”
Grandma and grandpa aren’t on Twitter mocking the kids, but that doesn’t mean they’re not rolling their eyes. “We laugh about it,” said Kohn, mentioning a friend who was warned by her child to shun restaurants way before most people were avoiding them.
But with data showing that older adults are among those most at risk from the virus, adult children can’t stop giving advice.
“I can’t even talk about it,” said one woman, near tears as she imagined a dark scenario in which her parents would catch coronavirus, and her childcare responsibilities would prevent her from seeing them.
In Melrose, Kathy Vines, a professional organizer and career coach, was having trouble grounding her parents until good news, as it’s currently defined, arrived.
Just as she was prepared to bargain her parents down to one show from the four shows they were planning to see in Naples, the theater announced it is suspending programming.
That opened space for her to advise them on which day would be the least crowded, and hence safest, for them to do their early voting in the Florida primary. “You don’t want to have battles,” she said.
But even as Gen-Xers lovingly plead with their parents to stay in—and also their teenagers and suddenly home college students—real anger is growing toward younger folks who are endangering everyone by packing into nightspots. On Saturday, photos on Twitter showing long lines outside Southie bars stoked fury. On Sunday, Governor Charlie Baker banned on-site consumption at restaurants.
And back in Sarasota, Diane Lapkin finally went emergency-supply shopping. “I did it so they’d stop hounding me,” she said of her daughters and a son-in-law who had joined the nagging campaign.
Beth Teitell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.