Appreciating Our Parents
By Bernadette A. Moyer
Our parents are everything to us when we are kids. They are our first “teachers” and our first significant relationships. They are our first family. Many kids grow up and have a deep love and respect for their parents. They appreciate them. They get along and they are family.
And many adult children leave home and never fully appreciate their parents. Maybe some never really “get it” until they are parents themselves. I’ve often thought of those that criticize their own mother and father, how about holding off on that critique or criticism until you, yourself have invested 18, 20, 25 or more plus years in the life of a child.
Parenting can be so rewarding but it also can be a thankless and never ending relationship. A relationship where you may know the highest levels of pride along with the most stunning disappointments. There are never any guarantees.
Parents often take it on the chin, they become a target for their children when life throws these adult children a curve and when things don’t go their way. Kids get into trouble and need mom and dad to help them out.
When we hurt people, any people, including family members and yes that means “mom” and “dad” too, we have to be grown up enough to own what we have done and ask for forgiveness. When we grow up we own our actions instead of blaming others. At some point in our lives, we take responsibility for who we are and everything that we have done.
We don’t get to disrespect our parents, lie to them and lie about them and then sit back and wonder why they don’t rush in and offer us a hand when we are struggling. Relationships just don’t work that way.
In my support group of estranged parents I hear all kinds of stories. Some kids don’t just grow up and leave home but want to burn the house down upon their exit. Often the stories shared are beyond what any parent ever imagined with they were raising little “Johnnie” who knew that all that love they had for their sons and daughters could one day be turned into such heart break.
Family fights that result in parents and grandparents that will never see their children or their grandchildren again. Kids that decide to punish mom and dad by their estrangement and then taking the grandchildren with them.
I wasn’t surprised when my mother “disowned” me, not really. I came to her and told her that her husband was a child abuser. She had two choices 1) believe me and leave him or 2) discredit me so that she could stay married to him. She chose the latter. It wasn’t about me. Her desire to stay with him superseded all else.
My life was NOT easier without my mother in my life. It just wasn’t! I don’t know any child, young or old whose life is easier without mom and dad. At what age does our life get easier without the love and support of our parents?
I always wanted my parents to be proud of me. I never wanted to hurt them or to disappoint them and in many ways I know that I exceeded their expectations. Maybe it wasn’t initially when I first left home but soon after. I remember my mother as an Administrator working at University of Maryland hospital. She wanted to play “matchmaker” and fix me up with a doctor. I don’t think she would have done that if she didn’t have a high opinion of me. And when I was a Realtor and just 26 years old I saved $8,000 to purchase my first home. I needed $5,000 more to close the deal and she loaned it to me. I paid her back early in just 10 months of the 1-year that I had promised.
Keeping that relationship respect worthy was important to me. Yet I know that I also caused them grief when at just 19 years of age I proclaimed, “I am getting married!” and married a man that was 15 years older. It wasn’t their choice but they stood by me. And less than 5 years later they would “stand by me” as I put him to rest and buried him.
I always appreciated my parents and I never did anything to outwardly hurt them. My mother was so hard working I never wanted to burden her so I took care of myself. My parents divorced and my dad went on to create a whole new family adding three more children to the five that he already had with my mom. He didn’t have much to give me but every time I visited him I left with money for gas and food. Often he gave me fruits and vegetables that he grew in his own garden. I appreciated it all.
In his death, he would leave me with two of his paintings. They are cherished possessions. Just like the two slate top antique coffee tables that I own, they were gifts decades ago from my mother. I have a Fannie Farmer Cook Book that she gave to me in 1979 as a wedding anniversary gift for my first year of my marriage. These items wouldn’t really hold any value to most people but they do for me. They are gifts from my parents, parents who have died and I never stopped appreciating them and all the things they gave to me and tried to do to love and support me.
We mourn when they die, we grieve our loss. But what did we do when we had them in our lives? Did we appreciate them? And did we appreciate them … enough?
Many of my friends have lost their parents as they have passed away. They grieve the loss and feel the void. Others still have their parents and they continue to love them and support them. As we get older we have a greater sense on just how precious life is and how all our days here are numbered.
Parents aren’t perfect and neither are their children. My father was many things and many things that he did were hurtful to our family, and yet I never hated him, I tried to understand him. I never hated my mother either, I didn’t like the choice she made in staying married to a man, her second husband who was known to me as a child abuser. Her choice left me no choice and it wasn’t ideal.
Soon I will be celebrating my 55th birthday. I have been a parent since I was 21 years of age. That means that for 34 years I have been “mom” and in that time I did many things right, from breastfeeding to graduation from a highly respected private prep school to an Eagle Scout, our kids had numerous opportunities and many accomplishments. They were well supported. And when I fell short or was less than perfect, I still had peace in my heart knowing that most everything was done from my heart.
One day our parents will die and we will be left knowing that we either loved them and appreciated them and can feel good about that or we will be sorrowful for all the days, weeks, month and years when we chose not to embrace them.