Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“Probably one of the most unfortunate things in a ‘Bloke’s Life’ is that it takes over 30 years to realise how essential you have been to build my character, my ethics and, most importantly, my HAPPINESS,” the note, in part, reads. “At 32, I am finally starting to figure it out. In good times and in bad, you were there. Your strength and endurance to raise me will not go unrewarded.” (See below)

      This letter was written by Steve Irwin, “Crocodile Hunter,”to his parents 12 years before his own death. His parents had no idea that they would lose their son in such a tragic death. This letter must have been great comfort to the family all these years later.

     Have you ever written a thank you note to your parents? It doesn’t matter how close you are; it matters that you thank them for the positive traits you inherited. Showing your appreciation for the good things they did for you, the sacrifices they made, the discipline they instilled, the special moments you remember—all of these will be welcomed no matter how old they are. Why would you do this? Because parenting can be a thankless job.

      We all parent based on a combination of how we were parented, how closely our parents stuck to the rules of that time (Dr. Spock? Dr. Phil?), and how seriously we take this responsibility ourselves. I certainly don’t recall my parents ever reading any child-rearing manuals. They were too busy recovering from the war and trying to make a living. My mother’s mother was critical. My mother was critical. My father’s mother was loving and kind. My father was loving and kind. My mother’s mother was a career woman (even into her 80s). My mother was a career woman. She got much more satisfaction from her career than from being a mom. My Dad was an ambitious salesman who never stopped learning and striving to have a title and financial security. He accomplished this while being a nurturing parent despite his long hours and frequent absences. We all do the best we can. 

     Are you doing the best you can? I did, and I certainly would not give myself stellar marks. Parenting is the most challenging job we give ourselves, but it is often the most frustrating, and it sometimes seems to be the least rewarding.

     If you can identify things your parents taught you, tools they gave you, special moments that touched you, then thank them while they are still on the planet. If you can’t say it; write it. 

     I am happy to say that I did thank both of my parents long before either of them became ill. I made a cassette tape for them in 1986 when they were getting ready to move out of state. (I later found that tape amongst my Dad’s things after he died. I also found every letter and card I ever sent him.)

    My parents knew I wasn’t happy with all the things that happened as their daughter, but I wanted them to know that I appreciated and understood why they did what they did. I will never forget standing over my mother as she sorted through her jewelry trying to determine what piece to give me. I remember thinking to myself, if you had just given me a piece of yourself, that would have been much better. She couldn’t. She said, “I know I wasn’t a very good mother.” She wasn’t, but by the time she said that to me, I had made peace with it, and I said, “You did the best you could, Mom.” 

     My mom gave me an indomitable spirit, a vivacious personality, a flair for decorating, an understanding of what it means to be “feminine” and a set of beautiful legs. She wasn’t there for me when I needed her. She wasn’t a nurturing, cookie-baking, room-mother mom, but she was true to herself. She modeled strength and courage at the end of her life, and I loved and respected her for that. 

     Regardless of the minuses you might feel in your relationship with your parents, I suggest that a short note to them while they are still healthy and thriving might be just the thing that makes their day. If your own children see you do this, they will know that gratitude is more important than grudge.