Never try to please everyone

There’s an old Aesop’s fable about a father and son who started off on a long day’s trip to market–the father riding on their donkey, the son walking beside.
Along the way, they met some travellers who pointed and whispered. “Look at that selfish father. He rides and makes his son walk.”
It made sense to the father. Perhaps he was being selfish.
“Ride, my son,” he said. And commenced to walk beside him.
It was only a short distance until they met more travellers. “See that inconsiderate son,” they mocked. “His poor old father must walk to market.”
The son was uncomfortable. But the father had a solution. “We’ll both walk.” And they did.
Sneering, those who travelled the road said: “How foolish! Why do not the father and son ride to market.”
So they rode. Both of them.
The next travellers spoke loudly and critically, “That poor donkey,” they said. “How that father and son abuse him. They are too lazy to walk.”
By now the father and son were totally confused. They had tried so hard to please. There was nothing left but to carry the donkey to market. And this they did.
It was hard but they managed to carry him for a short distance.
But as they went over a narrow bridge, the donkey struggled to get loose and fell over the side of the bridge into the deep water—nearly pulling the father and son with him.
The tale needs no moral but let’s give it one anyway. Here’s a famous quote that’s frequently found on inspirational posters: “I don’t know the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
This side of 60 is a little late to learn this important lesson. But better late than never.
Some of us have spent our lives trying to please people–our parents, our siblings, our teachers, our supervisors, our children. And some of us still are trying too hard.
There’s an idea afloat that older people have to have decisions made for them. Rarely that may be true—when debilitating disease strikes.
But most of the time, people this side of 60 are perfectly capable—in fact, expertly capable—of making their own decisions. They have a lifetime of experience and decision­ making that has helped them develop good decision‑making skills.
Your children may have different ideas than yours. And that’s fine. They can use them in their own lives.
Just as you had to give them freedom to grow up and become their own persons, they must give you freedom to grow old and remain your own person.
No matter what other people say, don’t carry the donkey to market. Use your head.
You’ve made decisions for years—and you’re still capable of doing it.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at