Being a parent is a selfless act. I am going to make the assumption that most of us became parents because we wanted to. It is our choice, very well knowing that this 24/7 job comes with exponential amounts of love, though can offer very little amounts of daily return on our investment in the form of tangible evidence and validation that we are in fact succeeding. We plunge forward, do the best that we can, keep our unconditional love for our child at the forefront of our minds and hearts, and hope that this little person we are raising will turn out to be a well-adjusted, secure adult, while having memories of a happy childhood to boot.
And yet, given all the drudgery and difficult moments that go hand-in-hand with parenting, we continue do it by choice. I don’t think that most parents enter into parenthood with the expectation of the “thank-you’s” for the daily appreciation of making lunches and being driven to school. We may only get that acknowledgement when our children become parents and see first-hand just how much we have done for them and how hard this job really is. And I also don’t think most people become parents to get their ego validated; if anything our ego gets a daily shot of deflation and frustration, when it’s hard to see all our efforts having fruitful outcomes.
I purport that we become parents because out of the goodness of our hearts we want to create a family, bring a child into the world and give them all of our unconditional love. It really is about what we are giving. The positive feedback we receive from our kids – in the form of hugs and kisses, “I love yous,” toothy smiles, sticky fingers, glittery art projects, laughter, cuddling, companionship, family togetherness and silliness – is all a bonus. However, many times we also get back messiness, tantrums, lack of understanding each other, arguments, raised voices, sense of being overwhelmed and frustrated, exhausted and countless sleepless nights. Of course, at the end of the day there is that moment of reparation when tucking our kids in at night, and seeing them looking so peaceful and calm, that it’s hard to remember what the hard parts of the day were. Nonetheless, parenting is all about giving.
Then, enter into part of this parenting equation the natural, in-born quality of our child’s own sovereign nature, and it its then we realize that what we are actually going to get back from our kids can a total crapshoot. Despite what we give, we can’t expect what we are going to receive because so much of that is dependent upon who our child actually is: their temperament, their level of communication and ability to tap into their emotions, their ability to express themselves to show gratitude and appreciation, their level of understanding of how hard we parents work and also their unique style of being in the world. Parents work very diligently at teaching their children manners, to be grateful, to be appreciative, and to be giving, all with the hope that one day their kids will demonstrate all these skills unsolicited and unprompted. And if they don’t, we will love them anyways, because again, parenting is all about giving.
But…when our kids do express that they appreciate us and all that we do – WOW! That is a moment to pause, be reflective on all our effort and grateful that it is being acknowledged. Those rare moments, even if caused by a Hallmark holiday, are moments to remember and what help propel us to keep trekking ahead on this life-long, unknown journey.
This past Mother’s Day, though prompted by a 2nd grade classroom project for the moms, I got that validation that I didn’t give my mom until I became a mother. My 8-year-old sweet daughter created a tissue-paper-decorated mason jar filled with heart, flower and circle-shaped thank you notes on the inside. She thanked and acknowledged me for every aspect of my mothering, from buying her clothes, to rubbing her back at night, to helping her with homework, to driving her to dance and making yummy dinners, with another 15 notes of appreciation and gratitude sprinkled in between. With each and every piece of paper I unfolded and read, my heart kept growing with love knowing that all that I am doing, all the daily hard work, chores, teaching moments, cuddling, loving, guiding, setting values and honoring this little person was being noticed, validated and appreciated.
My most favorite note happened to be the last one at the bottom of the jar, which also implies that it was the first one that she put in. It was the only one decorated with a heart and rainbow, and on a pink construction paper heart it read, “Thank you for teaching me mindfulness when I need some calming down.” This note was definitely my most favorite of the bunch, being the mindful educator and mindful parent that I strive and intend to be on a daily, moment-to-moment basis. All the others were thanking me for the wonderful of things that I was doing for my daughter, which were all still heart-warming to hear. Whereas this little pink gem was acknowledgment of the tools I was giving to her that she will carry with her the rest of her life in learning how to be present, breathe and use self-awareness to cope with whatever life is throwing her way.
Knowing that she gets mindfulness, and clearly that she practices it, is the very best gift of all that I could ever want!! That is all the evidence I need to know that my mothering, my intentions and my efforts, have already at 8 years old, already made a lasting impact on my daughter. She will remember that is was not only about how much I schlepped her around or bought her nice birthday presents – which are all still very nice things, don’t get me wrong – but that I have given her tools to cope through childhood making it possible for her to become a well-adjusted, secure, confident adult. That is the ultimate confirmation that parenting is a selfless act, because all that I am doing, I am doing for my daughters to live the best life they can lead. Seeing them happy and thriving is not only the best Mother’s Day gift I could receive, but also the best and only acknowledgement I need to keep me present on this path.