“Thank you, mom,” JR (my youngest son) said, like a sudden shower on a sunny summer's day; for hours he had been quietly bent over his law books.
I had not done any parenting in the last month. I was busy with my own packed schedule and deadlines to care about anything else. If at all, was he thanking me for leaving him pretty much alone without my usual, “How have you been?” “Doing okay in school?” “What’s up?”
These are questions which, according to a parenting book I just read, a mother should avoid asking her children. They are too busy, too tired, and too stressed with schooling and growing up to think of intelligent answers that come close to satisfying mom.
“What are you thanking me for?!” I asked, but he had gone to the piano and started playing “Music of the Night,” my husband’s favorite daily vocal exercise, and which, despite much practice, I can never play as well as JR can.
JR is a law student and not a piano virtuoso; he isn’t practicing for a public recital either. But when he plays, his piece can always summon a smile—from me. In my unbiased opinion, he treasures every note and enshrines them into a melody.
When he finished the piece, I asked him to play it again. He closed the piano and moved back to the Revised Penal Code and pored over its pages as though the musical rendition was just a hiccup.
Now that’s a grateful child, I said to myself. He was just thanking me and now he wasn’t listening to me.
I waited one long hour to ask him again. “JR, what were you thanking me for?”
“You said I’d thank you,” he replied.
“What was that again?”
“‘Someday you’ll thank me,’ that was what you kept saying, mom!” he said, his face stoic.
“I said that?! When?”
Ah, that! JR was very keen on playing the piano in the beginning. But as his piano teacher regularly came every week, JR thought it was getting in the way of playtime.
“Can I quit now?” He would often ask.
And my answer was always, “Not now. You really have a pianist’s touch, you’re doing so well. Keep going. Someday you’ll thank me for it.”
Someday was one hour ago.
I’ve always thought that “Someday you’ll thank me” is an expression, not a prediction. But on rare occasions such as this when this prediction is fulfilled, it becomes an affirmation—it’s like . . . after having broken a world record, one is awarded recognition in the form of a medal, gold no less.
Motherhood is such a daunting and difficult role, a mommy never knows for sure when she is doing right or wrong. She is often pulled in opposite directions and the middle point or “just right” varies with every child.
A simple “thank you” said from out of nowhere—in JR’s case, from heavy-duty reading—is like a medal that glitters and proclaims, you did the right thing.
To those of you who have not reached parenthood, this may be funny. How can one simple “thank you” be a source of extreme exhilaration? Well, why not try thanking your mom (or dad) for something she/he did for you years ago?
It gives meaning and a sense of fulfillment to our mandate, found in the popular verse, Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is grace.
I am not speaking of JR’s ability to play the piano (most other people can do much better) but his ability to be grateful—and coming forward to say it (minus the fanfare and gooey mush, of course). It’s all about having taught children something that matters.
“Affirm your child,” parenting books remind us. How about a book that reminds children, “Affirm your parents”? If it weren’t too self-serving, I’d volunteer to write it.
Are you laughing with me or at me?