Celebrating Parents

Did you know that July 22 is Parents Day? It seems fitting that after May, the month of Mothers, and June, the month for Dads, July would follow with a day to honor both parents.

It is a national holiday created in 2004 by legislation intended to honor parents who are vital to the development of a future generation. A daunting task, no doubt.

As a parent, I admit I am sometimes proud of the job I do, and sometimes not. Reading about Parents Day made me pause to think about parenting on a daily basis. Is it really something to be celebrated? When things go wrong, I am quick to question my parenting expertise. When things go great, I am slow to give myself a pat on the back and hearty word of encouragement. I know my husband shares that sentiment and I wonder if many moms and dads feel the same.

Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs of a lifetime, an ever-changing landscape of triumphs and trials that leaves me proud, frustrated and often weary. It is so easy to judge performance in the parenting arena, measuring worth by the perceived success of my child, or by comparison to other people’s children. How unfair that is to us both. But recently I heard a sermon about the gift of love and the wisdom of allowing our children to grow up to be themselves, without comparison to others — and without comparing the job we do as parents either. It was a refreshing concept.

Imagine giving up the quest for parental perfection and releasing the need to be the best. In today’s busy lifestyle, it is hard to imagine. And don’t get me wrong, I still want what is best for my child — I read parenting books, seek out the best schools and teachers, enroll him in multiple sports programs, correct his grammar and manners constantly — but the message I heard recently was this . . . what if I took a step back from that lofty goal of perfection and let him develop into who he is really meant to be. Wouldn’t that be what is best?

So, I’m going to celebrate the fact that my husband and I are not going to be nominated for “Parents of the Year.” Instead we will rejoice in the best gift of all — permission to enjoy being parents, embracing all the inherent strengths and weaknesses, and discovering the great potential of our son. And somewhere in there, we will probably overschedule or under-discipline, but we will survive.

For first-time expectant moms reading this issue, I wish you the best of luck on the birth of your child. And don’t miss the article about trends in natural parenting, with local support groups, listed in print and online, providing information about breastfeeding and more. Also, be sure to read the article “Summer Expectations” by Robin Whitsell on page 55 in our Ages & Stages section. It is filled with good advice about surviving the great outdoors while pregnant this summer.

As for Parents Day, each of our readers, experienced and novice parents, deserves a word of encouragement, a congratulation for a job well done. Your dedication to creating a loving and supportive environment for your children is the most important thing in the world. Keep up the good work.

In my book, every day is Parents Day. I applaud you.