I know I’ve thanked you for paying my college tuition. I know I’ve thanked you for the beautiful wedding. I know I’ve thanked you for all the thoughtful gifts over the years. But, in the midst of a parenting discussion tonight, I wonder if I’ve ever thanked you for the tiny bits. The micro particles that made up all the years when life was a grind for you. The ins and outs of daily life that often go overlooked because it’s simply what we do to make it to the next day.
As Matt and I discussed the evening’s events and the absolute crap (Dear reader, please forgive if this word somehow offends you. However, the words that originally came to mind when replaying the night would’ve made your hair curl so allow me this one….) that ensued, we wondered if we’re doing this right. This parenting gig. This non stop, tiring, exhausting, often soul sucking job that is so unbelievably important that you JUST CAN’T NOT give it your all. Double negatives and all.
So on days when you want to throw in the towel, you’re stuck. There is no off day. There is no off switch. There is no bowing out. There is no tapping out to return when you’re better equipped. No, there is no half way. To
be a parent to be a GOOD parent, is to be ALL IN ALL THE TIME.
As we pondered how ridiculously hard this job can be at times, which is actually all the times, Matt said he’s confident the kids will thank us.
I’m not convinced. Even if they don’t wind up as total jackwagons, I don’t know that they’ll ever thank us. Contemplating his comment, I had a mini daydream and thought about what rotten little ingrates they’d be as 35 year olds for NOT thanking us. In that moment it came to me. The realization that I, sitting here in the trenches taking bullets from four snipers with amazing aim, have likely not ever properly thanked you. It is I, the 40 year old ingrate, who needs to say her piece.
So here goes.
For checking folders and assignments. For explaining black holes to me for my fifth grade term paper. For making sure my hair and teeth were always clean. Or at least trying to get me to clean them. For new outfits and hand me down outfits and simply making sure I was outfitted. For sack lunches and money for school lunches and snacks and treats and birthday cakes. For showing up at events. For helping me understand when you couldn’t be there. For diffusing disputes between siblings. For stepping back and telling us you’d just let us “beat each other bloody.” For short drives to grandparents. For longer drives to faraway grandparents so we could get to know them, as well. For taking the time to explain fractions. For not being irate when I spilled red Kool-Aid on your brand spanking new white carpet. For forgiving me when I tried to choke the neighborhood kid. For not killing me when I gave the other neighborhood kid ditch water and told him it was chocolate milk.
For making me earn the money to buy my first pair of Guess jeans. Followed shortly thereafter with the same savings lesson for my first Polo shirt. For every piano lesson and Key Competition recital you managed to sit through. For sleepovers and play dates. For making dinner after you worked all day. Dance lessons. Softball practice. Soccer practice. For the saxophone. Then the flute. For show choir dresses. For wiping tears when puppy love went south.
For letting me know you wouldn’t come to my aid and bail me out when I repeatedly made a bad choice. For swooping in and rescuing me when you knew I deserved defending. For making me feel like the center of your world. For not leading me to believe I was the center of everyone else’s. For bedtimes and curfews. For exceptions and late night Barney Miller reruns.
For lessons on healthy eating. For boxes of doughnuts. For conversations on frugality. For a prom dress that cost more than I deserved and more than you should’ve paid. For braces when you could’ve used a new car. For trusting me to make good decisions. For limitations when you knew I wouldn’t. For a dog to love. For not letting me get another fish after the first one died. For homemade Halloween costumes. For Halloween costumes that made zero sense because you just allowed me to put random stuff together. For late nights helping with assignments. For stepping back and letting me fall flat on my face after procrastinating on my long term project on earthquakes. For swim dates at Kathy’s pool with Oreo ice cream from her blue flower painted outdoor freezer. For telling me that when I was sassy Kathy didn’t think I was a very respectful six year old.
For rules on right and wrong. For grace when I got it wrong. For all the big and little times you guided and prodded. For all the times you just did what was right because you knew it was the right thing to do.
This little exercise provided some under girding for the coming days with our own kids. I thought back on the time when you (Mom) and Mrs. Henry took Ann and me to Washington Square Mall to buy school clothes. Walking ahead of you, you asked me several times to stand up straight. I responded with, “Maybe I could stand up straight if you’d get. off. my. back.”
All records everywhere scratched.
You didn’t kill me. I don’t know how. Or why. But you didn’t.
God bless you. For not killing me. Which is great so I can be alive but also important because it gives me hope that I can endure the trenches of parenting. It gives me hope that we might all end up living through it.
So, thank you. And I’m sorry. Mainly I’m sorry. Like really, really, super sorry.
I’ll leave you with this. If you never understand your iPhone and drive me crazy for the next twenty years trying to figure out how it works, I’ll still owe you.