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Am I the Only One With an Ungrateful Kid?

The following was written over 30 years ago, at 4:00 AM - one of those times before daybreak when everything looks a little bleaker and a little darker than perhaps it really is.
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The following was written over 30 years ago, at 4:00 AM - one of those times before daybreak when everything looks a little bleaker and a little darker than perhaps it really is.

After reading my words over a few times in the days following writing the ode below and carefully observing my children's reactions and attitudes towards me, I realized that MAYBE I had judged them more harshly than was warranted. However, I decided to publish the ode without modification. It ran. And it garnered much reader support and engagement.

Ode To An Ungrateful Child

I do for you more than I should
More than is commonly expected

Going beyond the finish line
With grace, unending courtesy
and good humor

I listen with attuned ear
Give without much restraint
And judge your shortcomings
too leniently

And yet, my efforts are met
Not with disdain
But with an attitude of
"It's coming to me.
This is as it should be."

I wait for the thank you
That very seldom comes
And the hug that never does

My requests often go unheeded
My own needs unmet

I wonder who is the loser
You
Me
Or Both

In my indulgence
Resentment often creeps in unbidden
Going unexplored
Unqualified and unattended
And only coming out
Explosively in anger
Over something
Unrelated
Much later in time

I create entitlement
In my indulgence

I create reliance
On unrealistic, unceasing Generosity of spirit
And of pocketbook

In my indulgence
I harbor a feeling
Of wanting to say "No"
Just once
And picture the surprise
On your face
When you realize
That what parents give
Is not endless
Automatic
And always there

Just once I'd like to see
Your disappointment
And dismay
When met with
Indifference
Apathy
Boredom
Or condescension

And then maybe
You will start to value
What you perceive as your right
As something of worth
- a treasure that only some are given
For a very short time

In a cold, non-nurturing world
Constant warmth is a thing
We cling too
And only really acknowledge
When it is gone

Where did you learn
To take for granted
A parent's well wishes,
Support, generosity and ceaseless love
Without giving back
An equal measure of Appreciation?
Acknowledgment?
A murmured thank you?
A warm enveloping hug?
A muttered "I love you"?

Your coldness pierces my heart
Your taking my gifts of the spirit for granted
Causes me to pause
And consider a chilling thought:
"Did you learn it all from me?"

To confess, at the time of the initial writing of this ode, I did have one particular child in mind, although they all at one time or another had sent me spiraling down into despair by their attitudes and conduct. As an experiment, after it appeared in our local newspaper, I separately asked each of my five sons if they thought I had been writing about them. "Nope, Mom," was their unanimous, guiltless reply.

How did my sons turn out? Pretty well, truth be told. They are responsible, engaged in doing productive things, generous and considerate. And I can't even remember who I wrote about that long ago night at 4:00AM.

So, if you know of a parent struggling through the minefield of raising kids - and that's most of us - pass this along. A little encouragement can work wonders - at any time of day.

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