For the last two weeks my daughter has been sick. A high fever, double ear infection, mucus in her lungs and fever blisters in her mouth. And, of course, I am sick too. If it is actually possible not to get whichever illness your child has, I haven’t found a way. I guess I could stop kissing and snuggling her when she needs it most. I guess I could refuse to hold her in my arms while she whimpers in pain and coughs in my face. But to me, that’s not possible. Maybe I could get a gas mask. But that is a slippery slope, and suddenly you are wearing a doctor’s mask and gloves in the airport, opening doors with your elbow while you chug Airborne from a camelpak.
Needless to say, it has been a rough couple of weeks. A solid night’s sleep has eluded me for longer than I care to think about. Many a night has been spent on the floor next to my daughter’s bed, or in the chair in her room, or with her snoring and kicking me all night in my bed. But the other night, as a lay next to my twitching daughter, rubbing her tiny back in circles, I was reminded of the many nights when I was little and sick and my mom laid with me in my bed, rubbing my back. I remembered how, in those moments, it was the only thing that seemed to make me feel better. I remembered the way that even when I was in college, when I got sick I wished my mom was there to rub my back and make me feel better. Somehow a smelly frat guy drunkenly rubbing my back didn’t have quite the same effect.
I started thinking about all the sacrifices that parents make for their children, and all the sacrifices my parents made for me. Rubbing backs until your hand feels like it will fall off, wiping noses with your shirt (gross but true), risking illness to make your child feel better for even an instant, wiping butts for what must feel like an eternity, driving mini-vans even though you swore you never would… the list goes on and on. And I have to say that for all the sacrifices that parents make, parenthood is a thankless job. No one gives you a medal, or even notices the things you do. Certainly not your children.
However, it may be a thankless job, but it certainly is one that pays you back tenfold. You may not get a “thank you” but you do get a smiling, happy child. You may not get a trophy, but you get to see your babies grow up to be the amazing people you knew they could be. You may not get any kind of acknowledgement – in fact, you may even get tears and screams and tantrums in exchange for the all the sacrifices you make – but you also get the love that fills your heart so full that there is not enough room for the screams and tears to stay very long.
And while no thanks is expected, a little thank you here and there might be nice… especially when it is 3 am and you are sleeping on your daughter’s cold, hard, floor. Again. So parents, here you go:
To all the parents out there: THANK YOU.
Thank you for doing all that you do to keep your children happy, healthy and safe. I see you at the grocery store, struggling with your screaming child and keeping your cool anyway. I see you at the park, playing with your children instead of tapping away at your phone. I see you reading books instead of letting them zone out in front of the TV at night. I see you fighting to get vegetables in their bellies instead of Cheetos, even though it would be so much easier to just give them what they want. I see you at work, looking like a zombie because you were up all night with a sick child. I see you all. I appreciate you. Thank You.
And now the most important Thank You I could say, one that I should have said long ago, but never knew how…
To My Mom and Dad,
Thank you for comforting me when I was sick and for rescuing me from imaginary monsters at 3 am. For listening to all my stories, laughing at all my jokes (mostly about poop and pee), and cheering me on at all my sports games. Thank you for giving up your social life so that you could shuttle me around to every sport, activity and party my little heart desired. Thank you for snooping through my stuff and getting into my business, even when I screamed and said I hated you. Thank you for protecting me from myself. Thank you for telling me every day that you loved me. And for letting me follow my heart and move to California, even though it must have been so hard to let me go. Thank you for hoping that I didn’t have to come back, while kind of hoping that I did. Thank you for a million more things that are far too numerous to type. And most of all, thank you for never telling me about all these amazing things you did for me, but instead letting me figure it out on my own. I love you.
And to everyone who has read this far… thank YOU.