This time, I'd like to discuss the art of "parenting" as it applies in the other, upward direction of the generational flowchart — how we relate to our parents.

There is a family I know which I'll always look upon as an exemplar of relations between the generations. The members of this family range in age from 3 to 98. They are all close, and embrace each other with love and care. As I got to know them better, I realized that they had a common purpose which was higher than themselves and which was the key to their unity.

They showered the patriarch of the family, a man in his nineties, with love, honour and respect. The grandchildren learned it from their parents and the great-grandchildren from the grandchildren. Not a day went by without their doing something for the old man. Whether it was a phone call, a gift, a visit, or a drawing from the 3 year old great-granddaughter, they were all busy giving without seeking anything in return.

At one point I came to visit the elderly man in intensive care. He was on a respirator and the doctors had given him a number of hours to live. He was surrounded by his grandchildren; his daughter and son-in-law were overseas at the time. "Grandpa," his 30-year-old grandson whispered in his ear, "please don't go, my parents are on their way, they want to see you." At which point the old man opened his eyes, which held a little twinkle as if to indicate, "Yes, I'll wait".

I visited him again the next day. To my surprise, I saw him sitting up in a chair, surrounded by his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. It was obvious that he had something to live for. A week later he was back home.

Perfect parents do not exist. The difference between those who love and respect their parents, and those who are forever explaining the justifiable reasons why they don't, depends on the focus. Some focus on all the good they received, others on what they feel they should have received.

Your children will learn their focus from you. When Grandma says she's coming for a visit, do you plan with them how to make her stay comfortable and enjoyable, or do you discuss with them what presents to expect when Grandma comes?

A friend once quipped: "Look after your children, because one day they will choose your nursing home." Personally, I prefer to phrase it this way: "Honor and love your parents unconditionally, because one day your children will use you as an example of how to treat their elderly parents."