July is one of my favorite months with holidays all lit up in red white and blue. There is another national holiday celebrated in July that is often overlooked—National Parents’ Day.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the resolution unanimously adopted by the Congress designating the fourth Sunday of every July as Parents’ Day. The day was established for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.”
The establishment of Parents’ Day was the result of a bipartisan, multiracial and interfaith coalition of religious, civic and elected leaders who recognized the need to promote responsible parenting in our society and to uplift ideal parental role models, especially for our nation’s children.
I don’t think the intent was to create another retail holiday frenzy, but to create a day to honor parents, and for parents to honor their children by re-dedicating themselves to the ideals of family life.
We all reminisce about family life when we sit down at the table with our siblings or friends. It’s the foundation of our lives. It’s where we learned to love, apologize, forgive, work, and play.
What would we do without our parents? From the day we are born, parents become our greatest teachers. They provide for us, protect us, and inspire us to live meaningful lives.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s such a thing as “perfect parents”. After all, we all have our own weaknesses and quirks. But you don’t have to be a perfect parent to raise great kids. You just need to be “all in” and keep trying.
Parents need to be deliberate about teaching their children how to be responsible, respectful and hardworking. My backdoor neighbor had seven children and she shared, “The city won’t let me have a milk cow, so the next best thing to teach my kids how to work is a newspaper route.” Their family delivered papers for more than 20 years.
Maria Nye, a dairy farmer from Millard County, recalls, “There was a pile of us, seven brothers and three sisters. My memories center strongly on learning to work together. We teamed up barn chores with competitions to see who could clean their assigned calf pens the quickest. We learned to take care of each other. The older ones looked out for the littles. The caring ones bandaged cuts, pulled slivers and were responsible for finding an adult when the situation merited getting one involved. We did not go on vacation or out for meals. Instead, we invented games to be played after chores. Our mom encouraged our creative thinking and would treat us to indoor picnics.”
Dot Jensen, UFBF Women’s Committee Chair, remembers, “My dad had a way of making everything into an adventure—even work. Our family had horses and a feed yard. I thought we were playing together, and it took me years before it dawned on me that we were actually working. I believe it was because my parents were always working with us.” But it wasn’t all work. Dot also remembers that after her family gathered the cattle in the mountains, her family would ride to the river and go swimming and floating. In Yuma, Arizona that was a great way to cool off both the family and the horses.
Life lessons are easier to teach on the farm because natural consequences quickly follow actions. Meagher and Tiffany McConkie’s girls shared some of their “I’ll never do that again” lessons. Sadie has learned not to stand too close to the backend of a calf. Her 10-year-old sister, Mads, has learned NEVER wear a nice shirt to work. And Tylee has learned that if you’re going to be dumb, then you’re going to have to be tough.
Abby Cox, wife of Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, remembers an experience that taught her the importance of responsibility. Her grandfather had purebred racing quarter horses. When her parents moved to the ranch, he gave them one of his best horses. Her name was Hershey Bar. For whatever reason, she was never able to have foals that lived to maturity. Finally, she gave them a filly they called Chrissy. She was a beautiful mare who was as spunky as her mom. Chrissy was her father’s prized horse. He spent countless hours breaking and training her. When Chrissy was about four years old, she colicked. As this can be fatal in horses, they rushed her to the vet where she received treatment. The night they brought her home, Abby’s dad asked her to go out and feed Chrissy. It was late, and cold and dark and Abby did NOT want to go out and do it. So, she put on her coat and kind of wandered around outside for a while then came inside not having fed the sick horse. The next morning when they went out to the barn, they found Chrissy had died during the night. Abby knows now that it wasn’t her fault the horse died, but she will tell you that her 12-year-old self knew she had killed her dad’s beautiful horse. She said, “You can bet that night I learned that I was responsible for lives and that not taking my responsibilities seriously was not an option.”
Farm kids learn how to figure things out because they have to. Abby Cox was 13 when her mother told her to go back out the trailer. Abby responded, “I don’t know how to back out a trailer.” To which her mom replied, “You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.” She went out and figured out how to back out the trailer.
Parents are instrumental in helping children form a value system that builds the foundation of their character. Kelsey Grapperhaus, a college student at MSU said, “I learned how to pray for someone other than myself. I prayed for rain during a drought, a good harvest in the fall, and sunshine when hay was still laying on the ground. I learned how important faith was in farming. I learned the value of a dollar. I didn’t grow up with money and my parents went through some very tough situations that kept us humble. Money didn’t drive us to achieve goals. Family did.”
No matter how you shake it up, learning to sacrifice for what you value most is a timeless lesson that begins in the family. Growing up on a farm in South Jordan, Paige Norton remembers, “Everything we did, we did together. We worked together, played together, sacrificed together, and flourished together. My grandpa gave up a career as a professional athlete to work like a dog as a farmer the rest of his life because his dad needed help on the farm. I learned that family comes first, ALWAYS. The fun times kept us together. Work was hard and grueling, but when Grandpa took us sleigh riding in the winter or called us to come enjoy ‘Watermelon on the Wagon’ those fun times made all the hard times worth it!”
There’s power in family relationships. There’s power in reflecting on the influence your parents have had on your life and to consider what effect you will have on the family you create. Families are the core of our communities. “Parents are at the root of America’s goodness. The greatest work of any individual, rich or poor, black or white, when it comes down to the evening of their life, is their children and grandchildren, the work of being a parent.”1
So, add July 28th to your holiday calendar and celebrate Parents’ Day. Here are some ideas to help make the day both fun and memorable.
Spend Time Together
There’s no gift you can give your children that’s more lasting and ties to good memories more than simply spending time together. The activity doesn’t matter. The amount of time doesn’t matter. What matters is dedicated time spent together. It’s the greatest investment with the best returns.
Hold Family Conversations at the Dinner Table
Hungry for great family dinner conversations? Discover new ways to create lively conversation, overcome common challenges and bring your family closer with insights from The Family Dinner Project and real families just like yours.
Share a Family Breakfast
A special breakfast is an ideal setting for families. Get the whole family in on the action of cooking the meal and use it as a way to bond. Sunday morning waffles can become a family tradition!
Make a Memory Book
Create a family tree or scrapbook. Work together to record the people, characteristics and activities that make your family special.
Be Intentional about Creating New Family Memories
Celebrate Parents’ Day by planning future family fun. Draft a family “Bucket List” or think up a new family tradition.1parentsday.com