I often laugh with my friends and exclaim “it’s a thankless job”, in reference to parenthood.
When you think about it really, it’s true. It’s the hardest ‘job’ I have ever done, and if the work we put in as parents warranted a salary, we would be high up that salary scale. We do the bitch work (nappies, changes, cooking, cleaning etc), we do the most important work (reading, playing, nurturing etc), and thankfully we get the best of rewards (laughs, smiles, cuddles etc), but at the end of the day, would these little ones turn to us and say (if they could) “Thank you for being a good mum today“.
Admittedly, I can’t recall having ever thanked my parents, just because they raised me, and have stood by me throughout life. On the contrary, I feel that I would be offended if Bonnie and Isla thanked me at the end of a long day (akin to how my parents would be offended if Paddy and I tried to cover the bill for a meal in a restaurant). Why should they have to thank me? I am their mummy, this is what I do for them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And although it can’t be said, I can see their gratitude, it’s in the reactions I receive from them, it’s the cuddles, the kisses, the laughter and the happiness that spills out of them on a daily basis. Gratitude is something I hope my parents can see that I have had for everything they have done for me, even if we don’t speak the words.
I was fascinated to find out that people in India- especially when they are your elders, relatives (i.e. your parents), or close friends- tend to feel that by thanking them you are creating a formality and breaking an intimacy by doing so.
I recently read an article by Deepak Singh, an Indian man who grew up in America, it provoked thoughts in me, and I found it to be of fascinating interest:
“Saying dhanyavaad, or “thank you” in Hindi, would almost be sarcastic. It seems inadequate. When I thank anyone in Hindi, I make sure to look the person in the eye. Saying dhanyavaad to someone without looking at him or her is just as good as not saying it at all. As a kid, I never heard anyone my age say thank you in Hindi. I did hear my father say dhanyavaad to people his age, but he did it as sincerely as possible, with his hands joined in front of his chest in the solemn gesture of namaste. He wasn’t just thanking someone for something, but asking for an opportunity to return the favor. That’s how I came to understand expressions of gratitude…
…In America, by contrast, saying thank you often marks an end to the transaction, an end to the conversation, an end to the interaction. It is like a period at the end of a sentence. Only in the United States have people offered thanks for coming to their homes or parties. Initially I was surprised when people thanked me for visiting their house when they were the ones who’d invited me, but then I learned that, “Thank you for coming to my home” actually meant, “It’s time for you to get out of my house.”
I was raised to have manners, something which I am thankful to my parents for. I am trying to instil these manners in Bonnie and Isla, even from this early age. I thank people countless times throughout the day, for every gesture- large and small. Yet I will never expect Bonnie and Isla to thank me for being their mother.
I am not suggesting that we should stop thanking people, or to discontinue being so flippant with the word ‘thank you’, but perhaps, for those who are so close to us, if we are truly thankful, alongside verbally thanking them, we could contribute a little gesture that, perhaps, could mean a little something more…