Parenting is a thankless job. You work your ass off, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and you do it because you have to. You can be sick as a dog, have broken bones, a broken mind, an overly-demanding boss, a sick relative and a flat tire, and you’re still on as a parent. That’s the bed you made for yourself.
You got yourself into this mess, my friend.
But do parents deserve thanks? I’m actually not so sure. In fact, I worry that expecting thanks from children sets up a potentially bad dynamic. Children rightfully deserve the attention and care parents give. Children should feel as if they can trust and depend on their parents unconditionally. That attention and care is not a privilege, it’s a human right. Nobody should have to say thank you for something they justly deserve as a human being.
Now, I’m not saying children shouldn’t be taught to show appreciation. For sure they should recognize when someone is helping them and learn how to express gratitude, but there is a difference between thanking a parent for a gift and thanking a parent for busting their ass to pay the mortgage. Too often we parents feel as if we deserve thanks for the latter category. We don’t. That’s called being a responsible adult.
All that being said, parenting is the equivalent of sprinting a marathon and maintaining morale is a serious challenge. It is for me at least. Parenting feels like running Heartbreak Hill every single day. It’s only natural for a person, when expending such incredible effort for such a sustained period of time, to crave some recognition. Hearing thank you really helps. Being noticed for your efforts is incredibly meaningful. For many, it’s the fuel of life, and not in a self-centered way, just in a very human way.
It is for this reason that I am proposing a new system for the public recognition of parental achievements modeled on the Girl Scouts sash!
I think all parents should walk around wearing a Parental Achievements Sash that publicly displays the many trials and tribulations of parenting successfully navigated. I want to see the “I cleaned up the biggest diaper-shit-explosion ever known to humankind” patch, the “I managed to get my kids to the bus on time without killing them” patch and the “I cooked something that every single one of my children actually ate” patch.
I want parents to wear these sashes everywhere, and I want to stop parents when I see them and shake their hands and congratulate them on the incredible number of accomplishments they have accumulated. I want to say, “I see you. I know what you are going through and I’m so proud that you did all those incredibly hard things.”
We might not deserve thanks from our kids, but it sure would be nice to get some pats on the back from fellow parents, from those who get it.
So here’s my question for you: What patches would you be wearing on your
Parental Achievements Sash? Please comment below, because I quite sincerely want to recognize your achievements.
1) The Cool as a Cucumber: No melt-downs for a week
2) The Kumbaya badge – no sibling arguments/fighting for an entire week
3) Explorer – for changing a diaper without collateral furniture or clothing damage in at least 3 different locations in a single day
4) The Baby Bird – your child demonstrates unsolicited, mature behavior for the first time (could be anything, from an apology to trying a new food to taking responsibility for screwing up)
5) The ET – you don’t freak out when your kid brings home a weird new friend
6) The Wine-in-a-water-bottle – successfully getting all of your kids to all of their extracurriculars every day for a month
7) The Ghandi – an argument-free Shabbat/weekend
8) The Obama – your child becomes an unrelenting optimist
9) The Trapper Keeper – your kid goes a whole month without losing/ruining/forgetting her homework
I can keep going FOREVER, but I’m also not sure about the utility of making this a public thing, a la a sash. Do we really want to give ourselves another way to judge other parents/feel guilty about our own shortcomings?
AND HELL YES WE DESERVE GRATITUDE. This S$%T is hard, and not everyone does it well.
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No melt-downs for a week? Ha! I’d be happy with one afternoon.