Parenting is a thankless job most of the time. Stay up late with a sick kid, and your thank-you will likely to be a pint of vomit in your lap. Endure hours at Chuck E. Cheese’s on a Sunday afternoon and your thank-you might be a tantrum on the way out and a pinkeye infection two days later. Go to 15 stores looking for the must-have gift of the year and your thank-you might be “but I wanted it in pink!”
It has been said that we don’t really appreciate our parents until we become parents ourselves. I can’t say whether that is true for everyone, and I like to think that I would have eventually matured into a state of gratitude and appreciation even if I hadn’t had children, but the truth is that I didn’t really appreciate my parents until I became a parent myself.
Over the past 30-something years, there have been about a million and one thank-yous that went unsaid. There are thank-yous for the obvious things—like, you know, birthing me and all that, not to mention 18 years of food, clothing and shelter. But there are the less obvious thank-yous for my parents. Maybe these are the ones that matter most of all. Regardless, thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you.
1. Thank you for rocking me, and holding me, and rubbing my back every night for years because I was that baby.
2. Thank you for dealing with numerous tantrums and high-maintenance demands because I was that toddler and that preschooler.
3. Thank you for walking back to the hotel, even though it was approximately 49 blocks out of your way, to retrieve my beloved Strawberry Shortcake doll that I left there—a doll that I likely forgot about a couple months later.
4. Thank you for coming to school approximately 782 times while I was in kindergarten to wipe my tears, even though you had a newborn and a toddler at home and were desperate for just a few hours with one less child around.
5. Thank you for enduring approximately 13,529 trips to the grocery store with three whiny kids in tow and never once “forgetting” one of us in the frozen food aisle.
6. Thank you for road trips filled with a million “Are we there yets?” and despite your threats, never actually turning the car around.
7. Thank you for driving me and a van full of kids to Girl Scout meetings, sleepovers and swim meets.
8. Thank you for taking us along with you on vacations even though we all know that there is no such thing as a vacation when parents bring their children along.
9. Thank you for taking care of me whenever I was sick, especially that time that I vomited in a towel on the snorkeling boat and then dropped said towel with said vomit on your lap.
10. Thank you for celebrating diversity and reminding me (ad nauseum!) that “the world would be a boring place if we were all the same.”
11. Thank you for getting us that puppy we all begged for and promised to take care of, which you ended up walking and feeding and taking care of.
12. Thank you for dealing with the tornado that is puberty.
13. Thank you for making me feel beautiful in the midst of my frizzy hair and acne phase when absolutely everybody else seemed to have (unsolicited) advice to offer about face cream and hair products to try.
14. Thank you for reminding me that kindness is the most beautiful thing of all.
15. Thank you for pretending to be busy with laundry when my BFF in high school whispered to me about her “first time.”
16. Thank you for never saying “I told you so” after, well, let’s just call them the Bad Boyfriend Years.
17. Thank you for waiting until after I left for college to get cable, because now I have a comeback to my kids’ complaints about how there is absolutely nothing on TV: “When I was your age, we didn’t even have basic cable!”
18. Thank you for waiting until after I left for college to get central air-conditioning so I was better equipped to handle the hellfire that is postnatal night sweats.
19. Thank you for raising me to be a feminist, whether you realized it or not, by teaching me that I was plenty capable of taking care of myself.
20. Thank you for showing me that there is purpose and meaning in everyday tasks, that a seemingly ordinary life well-lived is nothing short of extraordinary.
21. Thank you for sacrificing some of your own hopes and dreams to help make the hopes and dreams of your children possible.
22. Thank you for having the courage to admit that you don’t have all the answers and didn’t know what you were doing half the time.
23. Thank you for taking care of our kids while we’re out of town and telling us little white lies about how “everything is great!” while we’re gone. (We live with these monsters, so we know what they’re capable of.)
24. Thank you for loving your grandchildren with a fierce and gentle love that rivals the love you showed us.
25. Thank you for teaching me the importance of a heartfelt thank you—even if it comes way too late.
I would like to say that I’ve learned my lesson and will be better about thanking my parents going forward, that I will thank them for anything and everything. But I also know that life gets busy, and though I hope not to, I will probably forget to say thank you for all of the things that deserve a thank-you. Let’s face it, the ones we love most are often the victims of our forgetfulness. So, Mom and Dad, consider this the biggest THANK-YOU ever for all you’ve done and will continue to do.
And kids, don’t worry—winning 1,364 tickets worth of plastic crap at Chuck E. Cheese’s was thank-you enough. More than enough.