I was cleaning up our attic the other day, and found a folder of papers from when we bought our house 11 years ago. I’d snapped some photos during a walk through, and there was a shot of my dad standing in the living room. He came over before we bought our 1927 Colonial and took a good look, from attic to basement, to make sure the house was solid. He also gave us some money toward the purchase. “I’d rather you enjoy this now than wait until I’m gone,” he said.
I teared up as I looked at that photo. Both him and my mom were the most caring, thoughtful, dedicated, all-around good parents to me and my sister, and I never realized just how true that was until I became a parent myself.
My dad died three years ago, and I think about him a lot on weekends when our family is chilling out in the living room in front of our iPads or the TV (read: I didn’t bother to make plans). Before parents had the Internet to search for weekend activities, my dad would do it the old-fashioned way. He’d scour the local newspapers for plays or puppet shows. He’d get on mailing lists for concert halls and dance venues, then buy tickets for our family. I try my best to take the kids to shows, plays, and performances but I am not nearly as diligent about it as he was.
My mom is getting older, but still visits regularly. She delights in lecturing me about health food and why I need to eat more fruit and are the kids eating too much pasta? My parents were early health food buffs. Dad used to grow his own sprouts and for lunch, Mom would pack me organic peanut butter sandwiches on whole-wheat bread and baby carrots. Back then, this was the bane of my school existence. I would have traded my soul for a Ding Dong. Now, of course, I know just how amazing my parents were for making sure my sis and I got super-nutritious meals. I have them to thank for my mindset and motivation to keep my kids eating healthy. Every time I make kale chips for them, I swear I can feel my father beaming down at us from above.
I could go on and on about the stuff my parents did for me: They didn’t put too much pressure on me to excel at school, but gave gentle encouragement. They praised me effusively for things I did well, like playing piano and writing. They didn’t force me to take lessons I didn’t want, but fully encouraged interests I had whether it was calligraphy or learning to sew. When I was 12, they got me a secondhand upright piano because I wanted to play, and I took lessons for six years. They organized family road trips during the summer. When I got older, Dad was always the parent who was willing to drive my friends and me home from parties, late at night.
I was glad for all that my parents did for me, but like many children I took it for granted. Then I had my own kids. I do a lot of the same stuff for them: Feed them healthy foods, sign them up for lessons (dance, lacrosse, gymnastics, art, you name it), serve as designated driver for parties and take them on good trips (Disney Cruise, here we come)! But, whoa oh whoa, it’s a lot of work being there for your kids 24/7 and giving your time and efforts so selflessly. My parenting experiences, and challenges, have made me fully aware of what outstanding parents I had. Not once do I ever recall them saying, “Just look at all that we do for you!” Unlike, um, some parents I know.
November is traditionally a time when we think about what we’re thankful for, and my parents top my list. I’m very, very lucky that I had such attentive, loving and dependable role models to show me the way. I never did thank my father, which I will always regret, but I’ve had wonderful heart-to-hearts with my mom about how grateful I am for all that she and Dad did for me. Theirs are major parenting shoes to fill (sensible shoes, of course) and at times I worry that my kids aren’t having the same rich childhood experience my parents gave me.
I take comfort in knowing that I’m doing my best … and that Mom will be coming over, soon, to remind us all to eat our chia seeds.
Image courtesy of ThinkStockMore On