How parenthood helps your heart to grow "three sizes in one day"

A celebration of one of life's most rewarding (and challenging) experiences.

How parenthood helps your heart to grow "three sizes in one day"
Hey, parents, when was the last time you celebrated YOU? Well, did you know the fourth Sunday of every July is YOURS? It's Parents' Day. Established in 1994 with refreshingly bipartisan support, this day facilitates "recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children." The roots of Parent's Day are an outgrowth of Korean Confucianism, where respect for one's elders is a cherished ideal.

In the United States, we widely celebrate Mother's and Father's Day and the time-honored traditions that accompany them. Many of us spend Mother's and Father's Day lavishing our parents and in-laws with well-deserved attention. But the humble Parent's Day remains a small notation on the calendar, barely noticed. This provides a fantastic opportunity for us. The holiday and accompanying traditions are ours for the making and I suggest it is a chance to honor ourselves as parents: an opportunity for our valuable role as parents to be honored in ways that nourish our spirits.

Parent's Day could provide us with the chance to do what we often don't make the time for: celebrating ourselves and our co-pilots on the child-rearing journey.

In honor of Parent's Day, we're cherishing five gifts of parenthood—and sharing five ways to celebrate.

1. Adventure: Kayaking and mountain climbing have nothing on parenthood. This adrenaline rush continues for a lifetime. The terrain is unpredictable, the weather uncertain, and your skills and bravery are tested daily. Think the last true frontier is Alaska? Think again. But in true pioneer style, you grow in courage, fortitude and ultimately, stake a unique and indomitable claim.

How to Celebrate: In true pioneer style, rest from the glorious challenge of it all around a fire. Whether it's a fire pit or chiminea in the backyard, the flames of a barbecue, or a candle lit at dinner; the sparks gets us in touch with the primal need for warmth and light that both comforts and enkindles excitement: a great metaphor for parenthood! The kids can be part of this gathering, or you can enjoy the element of fire as part of a "hot" date night or blissfully alone.

2. An Expanded Heart: Remember the end of Dr. Seuss's The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? Parenthood makes you understand how one's heart can grow three sizes in one day... everyday.

How to Celebrate: In South Korea, Parent's Day (held there on May 8) is a national holiday, widely celebrated. Korean tradition includes giving parents carnations on that day. How about some red carnations, roses, or any red flower purchased for yourself, as a way of honoring the constant unfolding of your heart's petals. Place the flowers on the table for your Parent's Day feast. The flower petals can be saved and dried out to make sachet. The kids can help. Once the flower have passed their prime, separate and dry the petals by placing them on a tray and store in a cool dry place. Days later, the still-fragrant petals can be placed in a special vase, ginger jar or container that serves this purpose each year: as a reminder to the family of your gift to them: a constantly expanding heart.

3. You Build a Tribe: Our society is increasingly alienated from community. The pace of our times is a frantic one, and as our friends, neighbors and extended family struggle to balance work and home, there is less time to spend with us, just as we struggle to make time for them. Emotional isolation is an increasingly painful reality for so many. A true gift of parenthood is that it makes possible a homemade community, one that can be creatively designed to value mutual support, acceptance and joy.

How to Celebrate: Design a new tradition for the family. For example, tying in with the theme of fire and red flowers, wear red together and start a new tradition for your tribe. Tribal people have always been, historically speaking, wonderfully connected to each other through their customs. Make some new ones!

4. The Chance to Begin a New Person's Story: Once upon a time there was a little girl, there was a little boy. That child was born to you, and you responded... with love, with lessons. Little by little, you created the first chapters of a unique and wonderful page-turner: one that breathes and grows! How incredible is that?

How to Celebrate: Honor your family story on Parent's Day by sharing memories with your kids, helping them to know you not only as parents but as the people you were before were parents. Discuss the story you are making together. Tell family anecdotes or create a hands-on activity for the kids through a scrapbook you design together.

5. Leaving a Legacy and Being an Icon: Pop culture is obsessed with the "icon": the popular singer, athlete or star who was unique enough to be larger than life—and adored. But how can the legacy they leave compare with the one you are creating? Make no mistake, you are an icon for your kids and the legacy with which you endow the world is the way you raised them: as kind, honest and loving people who will leave the earth a better place than they found it. Stardom? Fame? Those fleeting glories are mere sparks compared to the enduring fire of parenthood.

How to Celebrate: Give your child something of your own, as part of the ongoing legacy they are bequeathed. It can be a token or treasure from your youth that you pass along to them, or a yearly Parent's Day letter you write them with words of admiration and advice. If you like, make the giving of this gift part of the aforementioned ritual.

Feeling awesome yet? You should be! Just look at all you're achieving. You're an adventurous, loving, tribe-leading, brilliant icon!

And you deserve to celebrate all you've already achieved. Have so much fun.

Annabelle Moseley is an award-winning poet, author of nine books, professor, and speaker. Her most recent book is a double volume of poetry filled with Dramatic Monologues in the voices of notable and notorious Biblical characters, entitled: A Ship to Hold the World and The Marionette's Ascent (Wiseblood Books, 2014). Walt Whitman Birthplace Writer-in-Residence (2009-2010); in 2014, she was named Long Island Poet of the Year. Anna teaches Poetry and Religious Studies and is a Lecturer at St. Joseph's College in New York. She blogs about the interaction between the arts and faith at Desertbread.org and has a forthcoming book about Motherhood and the Arts. Her passions include nature, flamenco music, and above all, being a mom.

In This Article