Hillary Clinton once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That concept is easy to grasp but it’s not until you have a child that you actually understand what it means.
You don’t need a license to become a parent. You don’t need anything but a car seat to take your baby home from the hospital, and once there, you quickly learn that children don’t come with instructions. It doesn’t matter how many books you read or how many classes you take, nothing can prepare you for parenthood. It’s on-the-job training.
After our daughter was born, a single friend asked me what parenthood was like, and I told her it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. She seemed taken aback so I clarified. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve done,” I said, “but the most rewarding.”
No term paper in school, no project at work, no interview I’d ever done is as challenging as being a parent. That’s because there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to kids. They’re forces of nature, and like the weather, you can’t predict what they’ll do. That’s part of what makes them so wonderful — and so exhausting.
So, in the spirit of parenthood, I’d like to thank the village of people who have shaped the kind of mother I am, who have given me strength when I was at my wits’ end and who have served as beacons when I was lost. Here’s to you.
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To my parents and my in-laws: Thank you for being such amazing grandparents. You can do things with the kids I wish I had time to do. Without your expertise and enthusiasm, homemade Halloween costumes and fairy gardens would just be ideas, never to see the light of day.
To our friends who shared parenting advice: Thank you for reminding us that we don’t have to be perfect parents, we just have to be present.
To our children’s teachers: Thank you for your patience and encouragement. We hope to repay you by raising future Tony- and Nobel- prizewinners who will, no doubt, thank you in their acceptance speeches.
To our pediatrician: Thank you for not laughing every time I call you with a question and for being a steady voice when I need reassurance.
To the employees at Akron Children’s Hospital: Thank you for your compassion on the rare occasions we’ve had to visit you. (Knock on wood.) We’re so incredibly lucky to have an institution like this in our backyard with employees who care for their young patients as if they were their own.
To Beth Falb of Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) at Akron Children’s Hospital: Thank you for teaching us the skills to bring peace back to our home. Readers, if you find that parenting is more challenging than you ever imagined, sign up for Triple P; you won’t regret it.
To people in the grocery line that let me cut ahead when they saw I had a crying toddler with me: Thank you for understanding my plight, for not looking at me like I’m a terrible mother and for playing peek-a-boo with my kids to distract them. It gave me a moment to pull myself together and get out of the store with my groceries, my children and my sanity intact.
To retail employees and restaurant staff members who are good with kids: Thank you for showing interest in my kids, conversing with them and treating them like children rather than annoyances. You let my son play with your toy VW Bug (Ang at Rubber City Clothing), have a free toy basket in your studio (Cari at Sunthing Special) and allowed my kids to choose their own stickers (Camille at Retro Dog.) These small acts mean so much to parents, and in the end, it costs you next to nothing and is a win-win.
To the woman in the Wendy’s drive-thru line: Thank you for being in the right place at the right time several winters ago, when I accidentally closed the car door on my daughter’s hand. “Stick her hand in the snow,” you shouted from your window, and I did, and my daughter survived, bruised but intact. And when I looked up to thank you, you were gone … like a fairy godmother.
To the person who designed the track inside Dick’s Sporting Goods in Montrose: Thank you for providing a place for my kids to run while my husband tries on sneakers. A couple of laps before we leave, and the kids are out like a light before we get to Market Street.
To Summit Mall: Thank you for building the children’s playground in Center Court. It’s THE PLACE to see and be seen for the 7-and-under set. And, it’s a spot where parents can have their own time-out while letting the kids play in a safe space. And, it has outlets where grownups can charge their phone. And, it’s right across from Starbucks … winner!
And, saving the best for last, to my husband: Thank you for taking on this ginormous responsibility with me. Thank you for not laughing (too hard) when I say things like “ginormous.” Thank you for putting up with my obsession with making the kids’ birthday cakes. Thank you for not flinching when, after a long day with the kids, I tap you on the chest, say “Tag, you’re it” and head upstairs for a nap.
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There are many more people I haven’t mentioned, but I’m sure you know who you are. … You’re the type of people who understand that the children of today are the parents of tomorrow.
Thank you all again, and I hope you have a wonderful and rewarding 2013.
/ Managing editor Abby Cymerman is thankful for her village.
E-mail them to managing editor Abby Cymerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.