I would argue that if, as magnificently stated in our Declaration of Independence, mankind is born with certain unalienable rights, then the same can be said of every man and woman the day they become parents.
Beyond the most sacred imperatives to care for and about our children, I further propose there are naturally occurring privileges, which parents of all ages are both free and obliged to pursue. Among these are the seemingly contradictory, but nonetheless inviolable rights to brag and to nag; inspiring us to alternately glory in and sternly admonish those for whom, in the eyes of God and the Law, we are physically and morally responsible — for at least 18 years, or until student loans are repaid.
I likewise assert that these entirely natural conferments extend to our immediate forbearers, the grandparents of our children. Albeit the measure of their obligations is in the majority of cases less binding, their relative situation may prove more immediately gratifying. Freed from direct accountability for the youngest branches of the family tree, they are able to reap the benefits of their lifelong labor as they bemusedly observe the struggles and triumphs of their offspring in such matters as pertain to their own progeny.
The resonating influence of this older generation is most often earliest expressed in the provision of a haven safe from the proddings and limit-setting of those less experienced in parenting, giving the latest generation naught but reason to dote on their grandparents nearly as fervently as their grandparents dote on them.
The rearing of a child is no simple undertaking. Youngsters offer a constant supply of reticence to comply with parental wishes and sometimes declare open defiance to parental commands. They steadfastly believe their persons, bedrooms, and the rest of the house are subject only to their own conceptions of order and cleanliness. They assert chores and homework are objects of personal preference rather than compulsive duties. They grossly take for granted the comforts afforded them through the labor of their parents, most generally displayed by displeasure with the daily dinner menu, the level of cellular service, and the number of channels available through unreasonably expensive cable packages. They consistently underestimate the intelligence and frequently overestimate the memories of their protectors and providers, as we stand watch over their evolution from babe to child to adolescent to adult, breath held, fingers crossed for both them and ourselves as we eventually reach the conclusion our offspring are as perfectly imperfect as their parents; and we treasure them all the more for this epiphany.
Through the various and varied stages we love them, comfort them, teach them, forgive them, pray for them, and live for them. In return, they love, comfort, teach, forgive, pray, and continue our lives through their own. It is, in short, the finest quid pro quo; the most astounding return on investment; and every now and then, a cause to celebrate.
As has been the case since the days of our earliest ancestors, parents will continue to claim those alternating rights of adoring and adjusting, of feeling pride and frustration, of offering support and independence, each in due season. In return, we ask little and wish only to one day be blessed enough to repose in the fulfillment of the countless times we said, “Just you wait until you have children of your own!”
Happy Mother’s Day to all who are moms and just like moms — even if they’re dads.
From her Woodsboro home base, Susan writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com and is one of FNP’s Board of Contributors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.