Somehow, I don't think a Post-It note on the fridge will do...
September 2, 2009 3:17 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to thank my parents for their unbelievable support?

My parents are awesome. They're both very kind, generous, helpful, loving people. Growing up, my two older brothers and I had a good home environment, and even now that we're adults (I am 22 and my brothers are 28 and 24) my parents are still as helpful and supportive as ever.

Over the past year, I had a really tough time dealing with some mental health issues. I was in and out of the hospital and seriously considered dropping out of university (even though I was in the final year of a 5 year program). In short, the past year has been hellish. Fortunately for me, my parents insisted on helping out however they could. They made it possible for me to see my psychiatrist weekly, frequently offered to do any errands I might need to do, and listened to my endless venting about, well, everything.

Since graduating in June, I have had to move in with them while I get my health in order. Though I am often not at their house (typically I am in other cities visiting friends), they have made it clear that there is no time limit on how long I can stay with them. As well, because I am not working and I am trying to stretch money as far as possible, they have been more than generous with groceries and other necessities. They never complain and offer to lend me money constantly because they would rather I concentrate on getting better than on getting a job before I'm ready. I am very conscious of this, and make sure not to take advantage of them.

I have finally found a doctor that I trust and like, and I think I might finally be on the road to a healthier, happier me. Though it's taking some time, I feel like things are moving in the right direction for the first time in years. In June, I felt as though my life had been derailed; now, I feel as though I am getting back to my old self and I am starting to feel a little better. There is still a lot to do, but at least I'm on track.

So, my question (finally) is this: how do I show gratitude to my parents? Without their support, I could not have taken time off work to find a doctor and get my shit together. If I had started working right after graduation, I don't know that I would be of sound mind today. How do I show them how much their support meant to me?

Note: though I would love to make a grand gesture (i.e. send them on a trip or give them tickets to an event) I am not in a financial position that will allow for it.

Any ideas on gestures or ways I could show my gratitude?
posted by gursky to Human Relations (24 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Parent of three here, and although my children are much younger than you, I think the same principle applies: A bunch of small gestures > one big one. By far.

Seriously, if my son said to me, with 100% focus and seriousness, "Dad, you've really been helpful to me and I want you to know how much I appreciate you and how much of a difference you've made in my life, and I'm going to work to be just like that when I'm a parent," it would mean more than Springsteen tickets and a villa in Italy. Seriously. Corny as all hell, but that's what parents cherish.

Maybe you've already had the big, sit-down, serious thank-you talk. In that case, move on to the daily small gestures, the hug when they're not expecting it, the unprovoked kind word. That stuff is more magical than you might think.
posted by jbickers at 3:23 PM on September 2, 2009 [14 favorites]

I have similar reasons to be grateful to my parents; I think as far as they're concerned seeing me happy and successful is the best present there can be.

I hug mine whenever I see them and tell them that I love them whenever I talk to them. I try and give them the sort of support that they gave me whenever they need it. I've thanked them for the support they've given me.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

A few ideas to show them how much you appreciate them:
- A letter detailing all the reasons you are thankful for them
- Being a happy adult
- Paying it forward, with others in your family, and your own kids someday if you choose to have them
posted by Houstonian at 3:25 PM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have parents very much like yours (had anyway, Dad's passed away now) and what I do is never, ever miss a day calling Mom to check on her. The conversation is sometimes 20 seconds long ("I was just going to bed, everything good? Yes, love you, good night") and sometimes much longer. That's it. No gifts, no cards. Just a daily affirmation of love.
posted by vito90 at 3:26 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

What jbickers said.

I haven't been through nearly the tough times you have, but I remember my mother nearly crying (the happy kind) when I called her to thank her for teaching me some of the things that she had throughout life, and helping me to develop the kind of value system that she had.

The big thank you, the small stuff, and then being prepared to be there for them in the future when they need you - because someday, they will.
posted by whatzit at 3:27 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Only several years older than you, I've recently realized that I don't need to make them aware of all the problems in my life. Crash your bicycle on the way home from work? Not necessary to tell Mom to fill up an uneventful week. Worried about the job review coming up? Save it for your own thoughts.
posted by gensubuser at 3:33 PM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Send them a framed hard copy of this thread.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:43 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

1. Talk to them. . .let them know what's going on.
2. Help around the house.
3. Do whatever you need to do to get your ass out of there, and when you do, stay in touch regularly.
posted by Danf at 3:44 PM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: In regards to your post title, and as a mother (though with a still small son), if someday he left even just post-it on the fridge that said "you made it possible for me to be on the road to a happier, healthier me," I would weep in gratitude to the goddesses of good motherhood, knowing that I could rest peaceful in the knowledge that the best work I could do on earth had been done, and laminate that post-it and sleep with under my pillow every night, watering it with fresh happy tears. And probably slip another 20.00 in his wallet for good measure after doing his laundry just the way he likes it. All strange, I know, but parenthood's a nutty gig. And hey, here's a big mom hug from me, too, I'm so glad you're feeling better.
posted by rumposinc at 3:47 PM on September 2, 2009 [17 favorites]

Having similar great parents, I would agree with everyone above and add one more: make sure that once you are back on your feet you continue to spend time with them, call them, etc. I'm lucky to be able to drop by my parents' place, help my mom grade papers, go to baseball games with my dad, etc., and it's the best. For all of us.
posted by Pax at 4:13 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

A scrapbook. Each page a picture of something that represents their love, or the support they give you, your improved health.. you get the idea. And a little blurb under each picture expanding on it, just a line or two like "This is the pencil case you gave me, you might not have thought it was important but every day it reminds me of how much you take care of me. Thanks, mom & dad."
posted by Billegible at 4:21 PM on September 2, 2009

You are already doing it! Simply making them proud of you is really all any parent asks. Think of how you have done that just in the past few months. You stuck it out and graduated. Yay you! What could make a parent more proud? You are working diligently to get your health back in order. Anyone their age would know just how tough that is. It's truly hard work. Were you my son, I would be extremely proud of your strength. I'm sure they are too.

So keep it up. Continue to go forth and be successful. Set goals and accomplish them. Remind your parents how much you love them, and show them by being the awesome son they raised. Believe me, there is no greater reward.
posted by netbros at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2009

As a parent, again of a much younger child, I second the people who are saying (a) that it's wonderful to just see your child achieve and be successful and happy, and (b) being told that you're appreciated and have done a good job is better than any gift.
posted by glider at 4:33 PM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: Last Christmas, one of the things I gave my parents was a jar of scraps of paper. On each one, I wrote a happy memory from time spent with them, or things that I appreciated about them. They cried, and it spurred some really nice reminiscing.
posted by heatherann at 4:42 PM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

I -- mother -- would weep over rumposinc's Post-It, too. A nice card with words conveying "You are awesome -- very kind, generous, helpful, loving people. Growing up, I had a good home environment, and even now that I am 22 you are still as helpful and supportive as ever" and a heartfelt message of gratitude would be just the thing. And then go and be happy and successful. They'll be thanked, I promise.
posted by kmennie at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2009

Thank you for your lovely!!!!

(nothing else to add. just happy to know there are great kids and parents out there;)
posted by jbenben at 5:23 PM on September 2, 2009

if someday he left even just post-it on the fridge that said "you made it possible for me to be on the road to a happier, healthier me," I would weep in gratitude to the goddesses of good motherhood

Yep, me too. Heck, my daughter left a posty note in the laundry room that said "Thanks for saving my papers out of the pocket of my jeans" and I saved it for 6 months.

Thank you notes are really good.

I would also like to add that this is my favorite AskMe question ever. How nice!!
posted by SLC Mom at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: Just remind them. As often as possible. I sometimes have this feeling of panic like I'd be a total fuckup if I didn't have my folks, but then I realize that they take great joy in being able to support me any way they can. Your parents sound equally awesome.

I'm not in the gift-happy income bracket yet, but they're cool with frequent phone calls and visits and me doing their dishes when I come over and eat their food.

Yes to notes (and homemade cards). Baked goods are also excellent.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:14 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks for all of the great answers!
i really appreciate it.

(and to the parents who replied, thanks for your reassurance!)
posted by gursky at 9:33 PM on September 2, 2009

I have this Post-It note from my middle son that I carry with me every day. It says, "Dear Mom, Just wanted to say I love you and I am grateful for everything you have done for me. If there's anything at all I can do to make things easier, please let me know. Love TJ." He died of a drug overdose in March 2005 and I treasure that note more than anyone could ever imagine. Gifts and money could never equate to those words of love. So, maybe the Post-It note on the fridge will do more than you think.
posted by wv kay in ga at 10:41 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Letting them know that they are still a big part of your life and always will be! Spend quality time with them as well as your friends. Show them they are the two most important people in your life. Quality time works with parents as much as it does for children. Hug them unexpectedly. Don't spend time with them only for a reason. Spend time with them for no reason ( other than you love them). Bring them a coffee, tea or whatever without warning. Sit and chat about their childhood ( and yours) and their growing up. Ask them questions. Most people like to reminisce.

Small things ( to you) are .........priceless to them.
posted by Taurid at 12:48 AM on September 3, 2009

I'm about your age, and if your family is like mine at all, the primary "love language" is probably "acts of service" with an motif of being generous with time and energy.

To that end, try cooking a meal for them? My parents were floored when my brother and I cooked our annual Christmas meal for them. Another thing that they love is when I help clean up the garage, rake the leaves, shovel snow, do the dishes, etc, without them asking.

Small written notes of appreciation and promises to take care of them in their old age will not go unnoticed.
posted by chalbe at 12:34 PM on September 3, 2009

oh boy. i could have written this exact thing.

there is an overwhelming urge to do SOMETHING, anything that will start to make up for what our parents have done for us. (mine supported me for almost a year, through hospitalization and all, PLUS my three dogs)

when i talk to them about wishing i could make it up to them... the only thing they EVER say is that they just want to see me healthy. and i believe them. just like you would do everything you could to help them out in a time of need, they will do the same for you. it's what parents and kids do.

tell them you love them. often.
tell them thank you. often.
keep yourself healthy.
do things for them that maybe they don't get a chance to -- when i go home on weekends now, i make dinner every night, because they don't eat well during the week. they LOVE it.
just be good to yourself and them -- they helped because they wanted to and because they love you, and that's what people who love each other do.
posted by unlucky.lisp at 12:50 PM on September 3, 2009

I have a step-father like this. He has really stepped in in ways my own father has not, and he could have done a lot less for me than he did and I still would have been grateful.

He is also not someone who is generally comfortable with big, emotional displays. What I do is, I make sure to let him know I value his opinion by asking his advice on guy things like home repairs and hanging pictures and such. He really enjoys that stuff. I also give him a really flowery birthday card every year. He seems okay with socially acceptable displays like that, even if he wold not sit down and talk about it on a regular basis.
posted by JoannaC at 9:34 PM on September 3, 2009

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