For some reason, my 19-year-old was watching Thomas the Tank Engine this morning. I didn’t ask why. She’s home on a break from college; she needs a little R and R. There are worse things, right? I did get caught up watching it over her shoulder, though.
In the story line, a young train engine named Edward wanted to be a hero. He understood that to be a hero, you must be strong, fast, and stern. When he set out in search of heroic deeds, however, he met with situations where he helped people by being kind, funny, and gentle. He thought he was a failure, because he hadn’t learned to be a hero. But when he returned to his station, news of his helpfulness had arrived before him. Everyone cheered that he was a hero, not by being strong, fast, and stern, but by being his kind, funny, gentle self.
I love feel-good stories.
On that note, I was walking down the middle of Front Street a few months ago with some other parents. It was a parade, and many of the people who lined up along the road cheered and waved at us.
“Go, parents!” they called. “Great job, parents!”
A friend walking next to me said, “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve been applauded publicly for being a parent. It feels pretty good.”
Two days later, I walked with the same group of parents in a parade in Victoria, B.C. There we had an equally warm reception. In fact, some who watched us from their folding chairs had made signs just for us.
Go parents! You’re awesome, thanks for coming!
Talk about validation.
I decided a long time ago that I was going to love parenting. I babysat a lot as a teenager, so I wasn’t naïve about the reality. Kids threw up on me, I changed blow-out diapers, and I dealt with numerous children who wouldn’t go to bed at night. Once I even ended up having to take a tiny boy with asthma to the ER. I knew that parenting could be exhausting, discouraging, and sometimes scary.
And, I knew I wanted to be a mom more than anything else in the world. In school when teachers asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was, “A mom.”
“Okay,” I was told, “but what else? You have to pick something else.”
After hearing that enough times, I revised my answer to, “Also, a writer.” That didn’t get any better response than mom.
I guess that’s why when I watched this morning’s hero story on Thomas the Tank Engine, I immediately thought about what it meant to be a parent. Society (sorry, I can’t think of a better term than that) tells us that being a parent is important, but what really gets us accolades are the outside jobs we do. Even accounting jobs are sexier than parenting. We get paid and recognized for those jobs. Promotions, raises, people saying thank you, and letters of recommendation when we move on to something new. And while those paying jobs make a difference—both to our bank accounts and because someone needs to do them—sometimes it’s nice to be recognized just for being a good parent. For being kind, funny, and gentle, or any of the many qualities required from parenting-moment to parenting-moment.
If you’re a mom or dad, I wish you’d walked with us in those parades. I wish you’d been recognized too, just for being a parent. Not that parade days are easy. We spent hours waiting in the sun, making sure our kids—who marched in front of us in the band—stayed hydrated. Everyone’s feet hurt, one mom had some worrisome hip problems, and I realized halfway down Front Street while waving at the crowd that my bra hooks had come undone. Like most things in parenting, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
Thanks for being awesome, fellow parents! Thanks for showing up, and doing the hard stuff. You’re making a difference.