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Fatherly Forum

Why I Never Appreciated My Parents Until I Had Kids Of My Own

The following was syndicated from The Huffington Post as a part of The Daddy Diaries for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

Like you, when I was young I would ask, “Why is there Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but no Children’s Day?” And like your parents, mine would answer, “Every day is children’s day, now shut up and eat your lentils.”

everybody-hates-chris

Now that I am a parent, I understand. And now that I understand what my parents did for me, I think every day should be Parents’ Day. Since I was young, I always knew I could never be as good a parent as my parents have been to me. My mother and father, both clinical psychologists, have levels of intelligence, insight, patience, humanity and kindness that are 50 times beyond the best mom and dad you could ever imagine, and that’s not a putdown against anyone else’s parents. I’m just sayin’.

My mom and dad are the bees’ knees. I feel like I was raised by 2 living Buddhas. They are smart, funny, interesting people who I am genuinely grateful to have as my best friends. Selfless in the extreme, they have also been great role models in terms of teaching by example how to love with intense warmth and care, and also allow your kids to separate and move away. In their 80s, both have thriving second careers — my father has published more than 100 of his poems and my mother has shown her artwork at galleries in Manhattan and around the world.

Having said that, they are both what I like to call batshit crazy. Not in a clinical way that definitely requires medication, but more like, my dad will often sit around the house on winter days, in the dark wearing a winter coat and hat, gobbling Portugese sardines and Vidalia onions and shouting at my mother that the broccoli is going bad. My mother makes art out of lint (that is not a typo, lint) and rust, and, while constantly amazing in her brilliant childlike curiosity, will also literally ask the checkout lady at CVS permission to take a photo of her butts (don’t ask).

I’m not saying I had a storybook childhood. It was more like an acid trip, led by some nice hippies.

goats-still

In short, my childhood was basically your typical American one, except for time spent on a macrobiotic commune, and the fact that my brother and I basically never got new underpants from the time we were 4 until we about 12, we just wore them as the seams on the side broke open. But nobody in our house noticed that, because my father was working 12 hours a day and carrying home giant buckets of clay so we could learn to make pottery on the spinning wheel and kiln he bought us when I was in 2nd grade. He also bought a boat, and a monkey and a goat, and a horse, and much hilarity ensued. If I had time I would tell you more about the monkey, but suffice it to say he threw his feces around with Trump-like abandon, and also he bit.

To say that my parents influenced who I am today would be an understatement. My father played in a band. I had a band and became a professional songwriter. My parents wrote an article about meditating with your kids when I was about 7 years old and my mom gave me my first instruction in mindfulness meditation. I was around that same age, when my parents also took me to a Buddhist temple where I saw demonstrations of aikido and tai chi. I later spent more than 30 years studying Buddhist meditation, aikido, tai chi and other martial arts.

I was not an easy child. I once told my mother I had to go to the bathroom during dinner. She said, No, finish eating your lentils. I eventually stood up and peed on the brown linoleum kitchen floor.

This is not the time or place to start apportioning blame, and we could talk all day about who dragged who up the stairs and ground a plate of lentils on his head, even though he was only 8, and would later grow up to be a magnificent person.

The point is, I’m not saying I had a storybook childhood. It was more like an acid trip, led by some nice hippies. We spent every summer together, first at an old farmhouse near Woodstock, NY, and then later in Prince Edward Island. I recently watched home movies from that time and was struck by how rare it was and is for a family to spend entire summers together, somewhere beautiful and remote, for 20 years, and still get along, to still want more.

And so in honor of my parents, and as a new parent myself, I decided to create Parents’ Day. And that day is today. And everyday.

Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.