Before you cross the street, take my hand. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.- John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy, Darling Boy”
Think for a moment about your childhood and all of the small, sometimes unnoticed, maybe even embarrassing gestures your parents performed for you. You probably hated it when your mom kissed you on the playground in front of your friends, for instance. As adults, however, when we find ourselves in a stressful, sometimes unfair workaday world, we long for those reassuring acts of kindness, reminding us that someone loves us no matter what we do or what anyone else thinks of us. Here are fifteen little acts of love parents perform for their children that we miss as adults.
1. Checking for monsters
They lurked in your closet. They skulked under the bed. They went bump in the night and sent you running to your parents’ room, and it didn’t matter how many times a night Mom or Dad had to pick you up, carry you back to your room, and switch on the lights to show you that everything was safe. No matter how grown up you are now, you probably wish every now and then when you hear a noise outside your apartment that you had a parent to reassure you. Of course, you could always do what I recently did and FaceTime your dad for a virtual monster check, but I’ve been told that grown women in their 30s don’t usually do this. Who knew?
2. Giving you piggyback rides
I always used to think that if I sat on my dad’s shoulders I could touch the clouds, and I never worried about falling. Dad’s operate on some kind of superhero code of conduct; they’d never drop a girl, especially their daughter. As an adult, I sometimes find myself longing for those days if for no other reason than that they represent a time when I naively believed my parents could protect me from everything.
3. Making your school lunch
Whenever I’ve had to wake up early to prepare my lunch for work because I forgot to do it the night before like a responsible adult, I’ve really appreciated all those times my mom did it for me growing up. Not to mention the hearts she drew in my peanut butter sandwiches. Mine just don’t taste the same.
4. Letting you lick the spatula while baking
Okay, you can do this one on your own (not that I’m guilty of this, or anything), but face it, it felt so much more like a treat when Mom or Dad let you lick chocolate chip cookie dough from the spoon. Like hearts in peanut butter sandwiches, cookie dough tastes sweeter when it’s offered in love.
5. Taking care of you when you were sick
You probably heard people warn you that the first time you’d really miss your mom while away at college would be the first time you were sick. Your roommates didn’t have a problem finding miracle cures for your hangover, but nothing soothes a scratchy throat and fever like Mom’s chicken noodle soup.
6. Reading you bedtime stories
As fun as it is to curl up with a good book and a cup of coffee on a rainy Saturday, sometimes it’s not half as fun as listening to Mom or Dad read your favorite story for the tenth, or twentieth, or thirtieth time. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie remains my all-time favorite. Whether they read slowly and paused to let you stare at the pictures or gave their best Oscar-winning performances of all of the character voices, nothing matches the simple pleasure of escaping into the fictional worlds they brought to life for you.
7. Kissing your injuries
Whether it was a skinned knee, a scraped elbow, or a cut finger, there was nothing a kiss from Mom and a Mickey Mouse band aid couldn’t heal. You can’t really expect your roommate or partner to perform this loving gesture, and in any case they don’t make adult-sized Mickey Mouse band aids. I’ve looked. (Don’t judge).
8. Displaying your Kindergarten artwork for all to see
That finger-painting of the family dog wasn’t exactly a Rembrandt or Picasso. It didn’t even look like a dog as much as an abstract brown and white-speckled blob that might have resembled a living creature if you tilted your head slightly to the left. It didn’t matter though; it went on the fridge, or on Dad’s desk at work. Some parents might argue that celebrating everything your children do gives them a participation trophy mentality—the idea that they should be rewarded just for showing up. However, the truth is that it showed you that what you did mattered to them and made you feel special in a way that as adults we rarely do, especially when the work we do often goes unrecognized.
9. Redecorating your room every time you developed a new obsession
SpongeBob, Power puff Girls, Batman, Pokémon—you name it, they put up with it because they knew how important it was for you to be able to express yourself, growing through your regularly reconstructed identity. Now they have to keep up with your selfies and Facebook status updates, which change much more frequently than the SpongeBob wallpaper and are sprinkled with acronyms they don’t understand.
10. Asking you how your day was
If you talk to your parents regularly, they probably do ask you how your day was, but they can’t follow you around and pester you for an answer the way they did when you were a teenager. As much as you hated it then, you miss it now, especially if you live alone. This was your parents’ way of emphasizing the importance of communication and expressing to you that they cared about what went on in your life, and it’s one of those things we don’t miss until it’s gone.
11. Making you clean your room
Maybe on the surface this doesn’t sound like an act of love, but it is, and your parents can’t technically “make” you do anything as an adult. Sometimes I luxuriate in the liberty of not having to do my chores when I can’t be bothered. The truth forces me to admit, however, that more often than not I find myself frantically tidying the apartment at the last minute when I’m expecting houseguests, and by tidying up, I naturally mean shoving everything into the closet out of sight of said houseguests. “making” you do anything you didn’t want to do, from Saturday morning chores to homework, was your parents’ way of teaching you the value of responsibility and how to appreciate the sense of accomplishment at having fulfilled that responsibility.
12. Playing “airplane” with your spoon at the dinner table to get you to eat your vegetables
Did your parents ever make that “zoom” noise while coming at you with a spoon-full of broccoli? You have to give them credit for the ingenuity because they weren’t making you laugh for your own amusement; they had only a split-second to shove the spoon into your mouth while it was open, and as a result, you got your daily serving of necessary vitamins and minerals. You might not “miss” this in the same way you miss Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, but it’s hard not to feel a little twinge of nostalgia at the ridiculous antics she was willing to stoop to in order to get you to clean your plate.
13. Pushing you on the swings
Remember those lazy summer Saturday afternoons you spent picnicking at the park and playing on the swings, convinced that if you swung just a little higher you’d become airborne like a superhero? In those moments, there was nothing equal to the simple pleasure of feeling Mom or Dad’s hands at your back, responding to your insistent exclamations of “Higher! Higher!” with another push no matter how tired their arms became. Life was so much simpler when they propelled you forward and gave you a boost to get to where you wanted to go, but hopefully the memory can serve as a lasting reminder that they’re always behind you in everything you do.
14. Writing sick notes
We all have days when we wish our moms could write a note to get us out of that duller than ditchwater business meeting, but as adults we have to invent our own elaborately constructed plots to play hooky from work. True, you have the autonomy as an adult to decide whether or not to use up your vacation day nursing a tequila hangover, but somehow staying home and binge-watching House of Cards would feel a lot better with written parental endorsement.
15. Picking you up when you fell
This last one sums up everything it means to be a parent: supporting you in everything you do, whether learning to ride a bike or getting into your dream college. It also means encouraging you when you fall short of the mark, which everyone does from time to time because nobody is perfect. There’s nothing quite as comforting as being scooped up in a protective hug after falling from your bike, knowing that however badly it hurt, the pain would go away eventually and you’d find the strength to give it another try. Maybe your parents no longer pick you up and dust you off, but if you’re lucky, they’ve never stopped giving you the support and encouragement we all need to forge ahead in life.
Featured photo credit: Father and Daughter via pixabay.com