Do children appreciate all we do?

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First, I would like to thank the editor of this fine publication for my latest existential crisis. They cooked up that heartwarming “Thanks, Mom!” contest last week. I really thought I had that one in the bag.

I like to think I’m a pretty great mom. I’m there every day before school, after school, heck I even turn up during school if the situation warrants it.

I am loving and caring and dispense hugs and humor. I’ve really given it my all and been a team player these last 12 years or so. I’ve got this!

So what, pray tell, does my firstborn, heart of my heart, light of my life have to say in thanks to me, his one and only mom? “Thanks, Mom, for making me dinner.”

Thanks

Now, I’m not against the sentiment, exactly. He’s a male, after all, and he was put on the spot. He is also only 11 so it’s not like I could have reasonably expected a flowery soliloquy to my maternal charms.

I wasn’t anticipating “Those lips are thine — thy own sweet smiles I see, The same that oft in childhood solaced me” We can’t all be William Cowper’s mother.

Nonetheless, I wasn’t sure I wanted “dinner” to be my legacy either.

I suppose we expect our children to wax rhapsodic about all the awesome things we do for them when, in reality, they take it for granted.

Mr. Wonderful is often heard to grumble that our children simply do not appreciate how good they have it. To which I can only say: good.

If they appreciated how well they had it that might mean they didn’t have it anymore. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, after all.

Now, it should be noted both Mr. Wonderful and I had lovely childhoods and hail from marvelous families. They have no idea why we turned out this way.

Then

That said, we both grew up in the days before parents were so darned involved in everything all of the time.

My mother was a single, working parent and thus had to decide early on that keeping a roof over our heads was just slightly more important than making felt hand puppets and cupcakes as a room mother when I was small.

Mr. Wonderful’s father worked incredibly long hours to support a growing family and his mother was busy with her 10,000 small children. OK, it was really only four children but if you knew my mother-in-law’s children you’d know that they were a handful. I say this with love.

Thus, little Mr. Wonderful was rarely, if ever, enrolled in youth sports or related activities and to hear him tell it he had to walk 500 miles uphill both ways (and barefoot) just to make it to any frivolities he did attend.

We also grew up in the time when your swimming pool was generally either the local public (mine) or a cheap inflatable (his).

Trampolines were for circus folk. Children climbed trees or ran around and played in the sand or dirt. Parents sent their children outside to play. Rarely, if ever, did they go with them.

Now

Nowadays, our children are not even particularly indulged as far as extravagance goes. And yet they have a swimming pool, trampoline and park-worthy play set in their own backyard.

Their friends, even better, have an actual public park adjacent to their yard. I don’t think it really ever occurs to those kids that not everyone has not one but two regulation baseball diamonds right out the back door.

Attention

They have all kinds of ‘things’ and, more importantly, all kinds of attention. For the most part, the parents of my children’s peers show up for everything.

There are few, if any, events at the school, scouts or similar that won’t have parents standing elbow-to-elbow.

It would no more occur to these children that their parents wouldn’t be present for any “important event” (both real or imagined) than it would that pigs could fly.

So I guess I should take it as a good thing that all these children have no idea they have it so good.

They take it for granted, as their due, so rather than saying “Thanks, Mom, for being there day in and day out and loving me even when I was kind of a pill and for putting my needs before your own” they can easily say “Um, thanks for making me dinner!”

I like to imagine that some day my children will come back and thank their father and me for all that we’ve done for them. Maybe with a heartfelt poem or flowers!

At the very least, with this wishful thinking, I’ll live up to my daughter’s proclamation: “Thanks for being funny, Mom.”

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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