May 2014

Being Better: A Better Daughter or Son : Forever Grateful to Mom & Dad

Author: Kitty Bartell

I want to be better at being my parents’ daughter. For 20 years I have been gifted with being a mother; not so coincidentally, the same number of years my husband has been so honored to be our daughter’s father. It all sounds so noble … the queen and her king and their darling offspring. However, as it is for many parents, early on in the kingdom there were no noble knights, only long and dark nights filled with warming bottles while her majesty screamed, and diaper changes made by both of the not-so-royal parents. Fortunately, those exhausting memories faded to wherever it is that less-than-elegant memories go, and only the good stuff stayed on the surface to be recalled with fondness and a great deal of gratitude. As our parental passports are stamped each year, and as another Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will come and go, my time as a parent has taught me that simple gratitude is the true path to being a better daughter, or son.

Of course, my husband and I have loved the craft-paper cards, imaginative breakfasts, and heroic efforts on our daughter’s part to make Mother’s Day and Father’s Day special. However, it is when our daughter thanks us for something that we have done, or tells us that our words have made a difference, that we imagine we may have done something right. Whether for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, the requisite gifts are nice, and when the children make a meal or wash the dishes, everyone is grateful; however, my own parenting has inspired me, starting now, to work on being a better daughter by expressing the gratitude I feel for my own parents.

I will begin by reaching into the shadows to draw out some childhood memories that make me laugh, or smile, or feel all warm inside. Some of us may lack grace, or skill, or even experience at expressing gratitude; however, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are perfectly suited for this being better adventure … your parents will be ever so grateful.

I will go first …
Mom, I am grateful for the music. Growing up, there was always music in our home. Everything from Broadway show tunes, to Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, to lullabies sung on long late night car trips while we peered out of the car windows looking up at the stars: “I see the moon and the moon sees me; down through the limbs of the old oak tree.” I just have to hear that tune in my head, and I am transported to that station wagon, and the feeling of safety, and family, and love.

Thank you Mom, for making every holiday special: for decorating our home’s front door with paper pumpkins in October, red hearts in February, and green shamrocks in March, and for making cut-out cookies decorated to match. Thank you for making birthday cupcakes and party favors for my class at school. Thank you for teaching me that my manners should be impeccable enough to dine at a White House state dinner, even when elbow-to-elbow at the cottage table where ketchup bottles and paper plates reign.

Dad, I am grateful for the sports. You taught me how to throw a football in a tight spiral, how to release a basketball into a perfectly arched shot, how to sail Lake Charlevoix, and to love the game of golf. Thank you for teaching school all day, and then taking on your second job of coaching football, basketball, and golf. Of course, I thought you were pretty cool because you were the coach, but what you really taught me was that sometimes you just have to work a little harder and later than is reasonable to make ends meet, or to make life better for the ones you love.

Thank you for leading us in our annual Christmas popcorn ball-making day. I remember you being brave as you stirred the ridiculously sticky and hot candy syrup Mom poured over the enormous kettle of popped corn, again and again. How you plunged your hands in icy water and then into the burning hot red and green treat to form as many popcorn balls as was possible before having to dive back into the ice bath, and cheering the rest of us on to move fast and to be careful. I am grateful to both you and Mom for this family tradition, and for how you taught us to share and how to love our friends and neighbors as we delivered our highly-anticipated treats.

I am grateful to you both for making your grandchildren a priority. From holidays to soccer games, golf tournaments to sleepovers, you carry on a family tradition of loving your grandchildren without limits and accepting them just as they are. This legacy will live with them forever.

If you are reading this, you are someone’s child, and if you are fortunate enough to still have your parents in your life, you have the opportunity to be a little better. Find your own moments of gratitude, or memories you cherish and express them. Whether it’s a thank you card with one simple thought or a letter filled with memories, a scrapbook or a home movie, memories and gratitude are surely one of life’s greatest gifts. They may not be dignified or elegant, or come without blushing cheeks or tears, but be assured, each will be cherished.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom, Happy Father’s Day Dad… I am forever grateful. 

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