Considering how much we have to thank our parents for, it’s kind of surprising how difficult it can be to actually thank them. When I got married, my husband and I decided to each include a message of thanks to our parents in our wedding ceremony. So the night before the wedding, we sat down with pens and paper to write what we thought would be quick notes of gratitude to our moms and dads, before going to bed and getting ready for the big day. Cue to an hour later, and we’re both crying and struggling to come up with something to say that seems remotely adequate. Because what do you say? “Gee, thanks, Mom and Dad, for my WHOLE EXISTENCE.” It’s overwhelming.
So maybe the key to thanking our parents — and we should thank them, because they do a lot, so much more than we ever realize — is to thank them for little things, one at a time, rather than everything at once. The list below covers only a tiny fraction of the reasons you should thank your parents today, but it’s a start. Probably there are many other reasons that are unique to you and your family, little things that your parents have done to make your life good and show you love.
Of course, it’s an unfortunate truth that not everyone had or has awesome parents, and not everyone can look back on their childhoods with positivity or nostalgia. But if there was someone in your life who acted as a guide, a safe haven, or simply as a loving shoulder to cry on — an aunt, a grandparent, a family friend — then thank that person, too. He or she deserves it.
Letting you be a child.
It’s a sad reality that a lot of children in this world never really get to be children. So if your parents did everything they could so that you could be carefree and happy as a child — so that you could imagine and play and not worry — thank them.
Telling you when you need to be an adult.
Growing up is hard to do, right? Thank your parents for helping you to make those first steps into adulthood. It’s hard to take off the training wheels, but it helps to know that there will be someone to pick you up off the pavement if you fall.
Putting up with your teenage angst.
Being a teenager is terrible, but you know what’s worse? Being an adult surrounded by hormonal angst machines for years at a time. (Mom and Dad, I seriously don’t know how you did it with THREE of us).
Basically having to learn algebra again, so that they could help you with your homework.
People often say that once you leave school, you’ll never need to use the quadratic equation again. Many parents can tell you that that is a bold-faced lie — They had to relearn all that stuff so that they can help their kids get through high school.
Paying attention to you, even when you were super boring and/or annoying.
Dear parents, I know you love me, but I can only imagine that having to watch me perform the same roller skating routine (that I had choreographed myself, obvs) over and over and over again was about as much fun as waiting in line at the DMV. Thank you for not burning my roller skates.
Leaving you on your own when you needed it.
Receiving attention is important, but so is having time on your own. In a rowdy household, being given the space and time to be alone is a gift.
Having a sense of humor.
Having a well-developed sense of humor is essential to making one’s way through our strange, often messed-up world as an adult. Thanks, moms and dads of the world, for your embarrassing, goofy jokes, and for teaching us not to take life so seriously.
All the driving.
My mom probably spent the better part of a decade spending hours in the car every day, driving my sisters and I between school and a variety of enriching extracurricular activities (that all took place both far from each other and from our house, of course). If your parents were like that, too, thank them for moving your ass around for all those years, and for never succumbing to road rage when faced with driving you and your very loud friends to soccer practice yet AGAIN.
Risking their lives and teaching you to drive.
To be fair, parents have a real incentive to teach their kids to drive, as it means they no longer have to chauffeur you to gymnastics while you insist on listening to Jagged Little Pill on endless repeat. That said, teaching a teenager to drive sounds completely terrifying. Be grateful that your parents were willing to put their lives on the line so that you could learn to drive the station wagon.
Making you feel safe.
Growing up is frightening and awkward all on its own, and feeling safe and secure in your home life is invaluable. That’s an environment our parents make for us.
For thinking you’re awesome, even when you feel like crap about yourself.
You know that your parents are always your fans — even when you’re having trouble rooting for yourself.
Having high expectations of you — but also accepting who you are.
Parents have to walk a fine line between encouraging their kids to strive and improve themselves, and accepting their kids as they are. It’s a hard balance, and parents might not always find it, but they try. Thank them for pushing you to be the best version of yourself.
Teaching you how to be a person.
This one is really broad, but isn’t this sort of what parent’s do? As children, we learn how to make our ways through life from a lot of different sources, but our parents are two of our main examples. They model how to act in the world, how to cope with hardship, how to be compassionate, how to argue, how to give and receive love.
Trying to fix things, even though you are an adult.
Now that you’re an adult, your parents still try to shield you from the world and solve problems in your life — even ones that simply can’t be solved. Their efforts might not succeed, but their intentions, and the knowledge that you have people who want to go to bat for you, are comforting in themselves.
The most profound thing that parents can give us is a clear, unwavering sense that we are loved. To grow up and go through life knowing that there are people in the world who love you unconditionally is an incredibly powerful gift.
Letting you sleep at the foot of their bed for two weeks after you saw Tremors when you were eight and were too scared to sleep by yourself.
Or maybe that's just me.
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for protecting me from the bloodthirsty sandworms beneath the floor.