By Lisa Sugarman
I think it’s fair to say that one hundred percent of us have been either a parent or a kid. Agreed?
That being the case, I think it’s also reasonable to assume that most of us have had at least one epiphany-type moment, usually as an adult, when we realized with absolute clarity that we underappreciated and emotionally kicked the crap out of our parents when we were kids. Either we came to realize it as a result of raising our own kids and having enough doors slammed in our face, or we learned it just by virtue of growing up and seeing life through a less self-centered lens than we did when we were twelve. Either way, most people usually figure it out.
Now, even though my mom and I were always close, I still managed to find ways to be an insensitive, aggravating little ass when I was a kid. Did I mean to drive the car through the garage door when I was nine? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Did I mean to upset her when I drove off to my friend Andy’s house in the middle of a hurricane when she wanted me home? No. But did I do it anyway without thinking about how upset it made her? Yup.
There were absolutely times when I pushed the same buttons that every young kid pushes just to get a reaction. But I was just being a kid, doing the thoughtless things that kids sometimes do. And although I didn’t realize then that I was hurting her by being oblivious or selfish, I realize it now. Ohhhhhhh, do I realize it now. And ohhhhhhh how I wish I could swallow back every word or rewrite every memory of being a little #!%^. As I’m sure most of us do.
What I can do, though, is apologize now. Because as I so often tell my own kids, an apology will never make the dumb things you do worse. Any apology will always be a move in the right direction.
So sorry, mom. You know, for like, everything. All the stupid, asinine things I ever said or did when I was a kid. All the things that made you want to rip out sections of your hair or escape into the car and drive around the block to calm yourself down. My bad. All of it.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, it’s because I was inspired by my own seventeen-year-old daughter’s epiphany last week and I just had to share.
See my daughter, who works as a camp counselor, came home last week mentally and physically incapacitated after the first day of camp. She works with the little kids, the four and five year olds. And apparently, after four hours with them, she’d had an epiphany.
I found her on the couch the afternoon of that first day, barely conscious, splayed out upside down, head hanging off the armrest. After a morning of chasing her group of five year olds around, she was debilitated and barely able to speak. (I’m making fun of you now, honey. Sorry. I saw an opportunity and I took it.) But the one thing she did manage to say when I walked into the room was, “How the hell do you do the mom thing every single day?! Day after day.”
BOOM! There it was! Validation. Acknowledgment. Admiration. It felt exactly like what I imagine getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars would feel like. It felt almost tingly.
Because to be honest, it’s nothing I ever expected I’d hear from her until I was a grandmother watching her kids bring her to tears. And that’s simply because kids usually aren’t self-aware enough to notice that stuff. I certainly wasn’t.
Look, I don’t think it’s much of a secret to anyone anymore that parenting is a labor of love. I mean, people say it all the time. It’s a thankless job with long hours, crappy pay, and no time off. But at the end of the day, when we finally get a ‘thank you’ or an ‘I love you’ or, better still, an ‘I appreciate you,’ that’s the prize that makes playing the game worthwhile. And that’s why we all play.
So I guess the reason I’m sharing all this is to validate to all the other parents out there that awareness and gratitude from your kids will come. I think it may’ve been a fluke that I got it a little earlier in the game than most, but I got it. And while the recognition we get may not be in the form of a solid-gold naked bald-guy statue, it will come. Probably not until you’re wearing progressive lenses, but hang in there. Your time will come too.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.