A few weeks ago at my youngest brother’s soccer game, my father suddenly put me on the spot and asked if I appreciated him and my mother. Another soccer mom, whom I assume was having issues with what I call a ‘tude from one of her teenaged children leaned in to ask WHEN I realized I appreciated them.
Because my father was listening intently, I chose to be a smart alek with my response: “Of course! But I’d never tell them that while I was living at home… it would give them big heads and you know, we can’t have that!” Laughter from parents, everyone moved on in the conversation and I was left to contemplate how I really felt on the matter.
To be completely honest, I really started to appreciate and cultivate a deep respect for the sacrifices my parents made when I was in high school. Circumstances with Mom’s health and the later adoption of the aforementioned soccer-playing brother coupled with the fact that I was desiring the days when I could be a mother really opened my eyes to all they did. This, of course, does not mean that my relationship with my parents was Duggar perfect. Nope. While I appreciated my parents, we still butted heads because we were humans with different opinions.
But the point is that during this time, I saw what parents do for their small children not only by watching my parents care for that sweet little baby, but through my own involvement with him. My mother’s health was at a high point during the time of the adoption, but in the years shortly after things really suffered. I spent a lot of time and energy caring for my brother like a parent would because of the situation I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to since my next youngest brother is only 2 and a half years apart from me.
All the time I spent with him, going through the functions of a parent, I bonded with the little guy. I knew what it was like to love a child so much it hurt long before we even thought about starting our own family. I knew what it was like to try to communicate with a child who didn’t understand. I knew exactly how challenging two and three year olds (and let’s face it, 4 year olds, 5 year olds… all the ages!) are. I understood the depth of emotions and how we do anything to help our children.
As I’ve grown as an individual and as a parent, my appreciation for my parents have definitely deepened. I know now what a sacrifice it is to push through a chronic illness. I understand how difficult it to parent children when your husband’s schedule isn’t a normal 9-5. I get why she often snapped at me when I asked questions when she was tired or in pain. I understand my father’s stress over providing for the family on an average income. But I understand this only as I have experienced… not exactly how my parents felt in their own situations.
There are facets of parenting that I knew would be hard going into them and there still things I have yet to discover. If I could answer my dad’s question all over again I’d say something different. I’d say that I appreciated them as a teenager, but I didn’t get it. I’d say that I thought I understood their sacrifices and appreciated their willingness to do so, but until I stood in their shoes I couldn’t really comprehend it. And then, I’d look at that mother and tell her that appreciation doesn’t look the same for every child; and not every child will feel the need to verbalize their feelings or even act like they are appreciative, but it’s there.