It is early evening in late September. A mother and daughter sit at a table in a fast-casual restaurant. Country music is playing, but not the good (George Strait) kind.
[A server approaches the table with two plates of food. She places them in front of each woman and returns to the kitchen. The mother immediately eats a french fry.]
MOTHER: Oh! These fries are hot!
DAUGHTER: Oh? [tries a fry from her own plate] Mine aren’t that hot.
MOTHER: Do you want to switch?
I’m not a parent. Well, I have dogs that I consider “children” (seems like they certainly cost as much!), but it’s really not the same because I can put my dogs in their crates when they annoy me, while my friends who are parents would be accused of child abuse if they did that to their two-legged children.
I’m not a parent, and it’s probably good that I’m not because I’m kind of a selfish person. I mean, if I had a plate of hot, tasty french fries in front of me, I probably wouldn’t offer to take the other person’s not-as-hot fries. Even if that other person was a cute, small child with pigtails or something.
This act of selflessness is unique to parents (especially mothers, in my opinion). They will always do whatever it takes to make life better or easier or happier for their child. Parents will give up the best spot on the couch so their child is comfortable. Parents will take on a second job so their child can have the best tutors to improve his chances of getting into college. Parents will go to the ends of the earth to ensure that their child does not go without.
At school today, each of my classes participated in a Socratic seminar. We had just finished reading 12 very different excerpts, stories, and poems, and the kids had the opportunity to discuss and make larger connections. In each of the classes, the conversation switched to parents. I listened to these kids talk about how important their parents are to them. They talked about the advice they’ve received and the lessons they’ve learned. They understood that their parents have more life experience and that experience should be appreciated. They recognized that their parents really do have their best interests at heart. It was so uplifting to hear them speak so positively about their relationships with their parents, and it was a little revelatory. I wonder how many of these kids actually let their parents know that they are listening!
And so I say to you, parents, they are listening! They hear you when you tell them that grades are important. That positive friendships are important. That eating your vegetables is important. They hear you, and your words linger in the corners of their minds, and they recall those words when it’s time to make a choice. And in that moment, they might decide to do the wrong thing, and you might feel as if you have failed. But you haven’t. They do know that you were right, and they will try to do better next time.
So to all of you noble, generous, loving parents out there: Keep up the good work! And thanks for always offering your hot french fries!