“You are never going to appreciate us until you have kids of your own” Those are the words that my dad was always telling me.
God rest his soul as he passed more than 2 years ago. But, wow, was he ever wrong. But, he was really right.
I appreciated my parents. I grew up with a special needs younger brother and 2 sisters. We lived in a village about 80km from Cairo. My dad worked nights and mother during the day. He got up with us after working a long night and made sure we had breakfast and was booted off to school so he could sleep for a few hours. We didnt have nanny’s or the latest tv (my wife still uses some weird phrase about walking up a snowy hill both ways or something to get home). But, we saw a lot of love between our parents. We got smacked and whatever else they could come up with. But back then, we did appreciate them (atleast I did – not sure about the rest of my crazy family).
I appreciated my dad sneaking me out and getting me a sweet or having a day together walking around to his friends or listening him talk about religion or politics or involving me in conversations sometimes. I appreciated my mom because when she wasn’t around, I always remember really missing her as I was growing up – even just for a few hours. I did appreciate them, and I still do.
Now comes that lightbulb over the head thing. I had kids. I think that at that moment (well, atleast with the first it took that 6 months I talked about), I probably appreciated my parents in about a 1000 more ways than I ever thought possible. I took a turn from appreciating what they did for ME and my own comfort in life growing up into realizing that what they sacrificed for me from behind the scenes and how much pain, worry and fear they carried with them as I just wandered around thinking I was invincible.
I didn’t know until many years later that my mother and father took only a few bites of food in the early years to make sure we ate plenty. That those little sweets my dad would buy for me was without my mom knowing and using the little bit of taxi money he had reserved for the next day to offer me something and see me smile. Those times he was seeing his friends, it was to pay back money he owed them. Thankfully, that wasn’t the situation any longer as we grew up and things improved and we all went on our own ways – becoming educated and moving on with our lives. But, when I started checking on my daughters every night, several times a night to make sure they were breathing, having vivid nightmares of the things that could happen (robbery, fire, earthquake, nuclear disaster, Tom Cruise trying to stop an asteroid from hitting the earth, etc.). How will I protect them? What about those nasty bad people out there? What about the terrible nannies that are out there (more on why we decided against nannies early on in a later post) and the things they do to children. I started not caring about what I was going to buy but thinking about what could we do to have fun, what new clothes did they need or lets spend the extra money on buying organic instead of the cheap rasberries. I wanted to simply put that child back in and go back to my life where everything was normal and I worried about which jeans to wear the next day.
The other night, I listened to my littlest coughing. She’s always struggled a bit with anything slightly respiratory. I know every single little cough and what sound means one and continuing to check on her to make sure she is ok and hasn’t vomited (yes, this is the projectile thing I was talking about – she has taken it to an art form!)
This is painful! This is horrendous having to worry about some other little person. This isn’t about next week or putting things off to tomorrow. This is about right now, this second, at 3:22 a.m. when you just watch her breathe and the house is quiet and you sit in their room feeling like there is a blizzard of fuzziness in your head. You worry if you locked the door. You go and check. You hear a cough, you go back. You sit and watch. At that time, my heart is probably the heaviest but also ready to take flight. This painful thing that weighs on every single decision that you make every second of every day is so overwhelming.
Do they appreciate me (or us, I have to say that or the wife might take serious action)? Yes, I think they do. They appreciate what I DO for them right now. What I appreciate is everything my parents did behind the scenes that has brought me to this point of being able to say “Thank you” and really meaning it.
My girls are going to appreciate me every step of the way – even when they hate me when they are teenagers. But that appreciation is going to be in phases just like we have been going through those same phases growing up and figuring out that maybe we actually should have listened to our parents.
And even when they are 50 and I’m still calling them my babies or my girls (my wife calls them different animal names – and I really hope that she doesn’t use those words when they are 50),
I want them to know that while they are still working on their ‘phases of appreciation’, I am appreciating them for what they have been able to give to me. They have been able to let me turn around to my parents (both here on earth and in spirit) and truthfully say “Thanks, you were right”.