This photo is a couple of years old, but it's my most favorite photo with my parents. It's also the most recent photo I have with my parents, which reminds me that I should get more pictures with them during the holidays this year.
Today, I am very thankful for the two people in that picture with me. My mom and dad.
That picture was taken on the day of my graduation, and you can see the pride in their eyes. It was a day that meant so much to me. After years of struggling and battling to achieve a life long dream, my parents stood by my side supporting me. And that in itself is something to be very thankful for.
Yesterday, I got to be thankful for my children, and I explained that as a parent I don't believe my children owe me any thanks for bringing them in to this world. It was my choice, and so my duty to make sure they were happy with their lives. As their mother it was my job to owe them that, not their job to be grateful for it.
But, even with everything I did say yesterday, I am still very thankful that these two people are my parents.
My parents instilled in to me the same values and dedication I have towards my children as they showed me. They taught me how to love unconditionally. They taught me that raising children is a lot harder than I ever thought, and made me realize that they made it look easy because they did what they could to shield the hardships. They worked their behinds off so that my siblings and I could have a good life...and it was never our jobs to worry about money or paying bills. They did what they could to make sure we were comfortable, happy, and healthy.
My parents taught me the value of hard work. I had my first job when I was ten or eleven years old, delivering newspapers. And even though my mother was less than thrilled that her child would get up at the butt crack of dawn to go out and do that job, it was allowed so that I could get a glimpse of what responsibility and hard work could do for me.
They spoiled us rotten without realizing that we were being spoiled. We always had the latest and greatest toys and electronics. Yet, the minute we stepped out of line, we were introduced to hours of manual labor and loss of our privileges. No fancy toys and electronics for us if we couldn't follow the rules. We were given consequences to our actions, and were taught how to care and be responsible for our belongings. If our toys were left strewn all over the floor or house, they were quickly confiscated until we could show more responsibility.
My parents are the people that my students can thank for my motto "Getting by isn't good enough, I expect the best that you've got. Always." My parents never settled for "getting by". I was upheld to strict grade requirements, because they knew what I was capable of. My school work was important. My grades were important. And they never believed in bribery to get me to do well, it was expected. Period. I think back now to times when I showed my parents my all A report cards and getting no money, no celebrations, no parties. I was always given a "of course" statement instead. Which isn't a bad thing. It sure did help me realize my potential, and made me understand that the gift of realizing my own potential was the prize in all of it.
I know it may be hard to believe, but I wasn't always the perfect child.
I remember the one and only time I ever stole from my parents. I stole money from them. Money they had put aside to pay bills with. And, it didn't take long for them to break me in order to find out. I have never been a good liar. I cracked under the pressure in minutes. I fessed up. And, it wasn't anger or yelling or screaming that scorched my heart and fended me off from ever stealing again. It was the look of utter shock and disappointment in my parents' eyes after I caved.
And, it wouldn't be the last time I saw such a look.
Even though I never stole from my parents ever again, I still did my share of bad behaviors. The whole time thinking that they were mean or too strict or had too many rules. What I failed to realize, and learned the hard way, was that those rules were in place for a very good reason. To protect me. To prevent harm. To assure that I stayed on the straight and narrow.
I failed at learning their lessons the easy way, but I got through them.
During those rough times, I learned very valuable lessons that have forever been instilled in to me.
But no matter how much I hurt my parents, or pushed them away, or made them feel unloved....they were always there for me. To pick up the pieces of my mistakes. To help me learn from those mistakes. To help me repair the damage that I had done.
One of the most heartbreaking sights I have ever seen is the look of utter disappointment and heartbreak in my father's eyes. To stand before him, after months of bad behavior, running away from home, breaking every rule ever set before me, and to see so much pain that he couldn't look me in the eye will forever haunt me. It took a long time to repair the damage I had done, but I was able to do it. And when the day came where he was finally able to overcome all that I had done to him, take me back in to his arms and tell me that he had forgiven me, I swore that I would NEVER do anything to disappoint him again.
And that's not to say that I haven't had the same look from my mother, but she's always been the easier one. She somehow has a gift of forgiving and moving on like nothing ever happened. Something else that I am so thankful for to this day. Because I am convinced that had it not been for my mom's forgiveness, the relationship with my father would not have repaired itself.
So, I stand firm on my belief that children don't owe their parents any thanks for being put on this earth. But, parents are deserving of thanks when they have been drug through the ringer of heartbreak.
Thankfully, the good times highly outweigh the bad times. In my 31 years on this earth, I've only given my parents major grief through a couple of those years. My late teen years. That's it. But, that was enough.
For the rest of the time, I have been extremely close with my parents.
My mom is my best friend. She is the person that I call just to chat. She's the person I turn to when I need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on. She is the person I call with questions about my children, being a mother, and taking care of my family.
My dad is...well... my dad. I honestly don't have the words to describe the love I have for him. I know that he will always be there when I need him. He is my protector. My hero in a way. He will do anything for his children, and he has a gift of being a man of few words that can say so much.
I am so happy that I am so close with my parents. I will never have to look back and regret not getting to spend enough time with them, creating memories with them. They have always been and will always be important to me. A solid part of my life.
And for that, I am extremely thankful.