When you think of teenagers, "grateful" is probably not the first word that comes to mind.
In fact, teenagers often have the opposite reputation — spoiled, entitled, and selfish. Fittingly, advice for parents of teenagers frequently focuses on how to deal with bad attitudes.
However, labeling all teens inherently ungrateful isn't totally accurate. Many teenagers actually do appreciate their parents’ hard work, whether it’s cooking, doing their laundry, or helping them study for next morning’s algebra test. Of course, it might be hard to see that gratitude, especially when teens are busy hanging out with friends, texting at the dinner table, or slamming the occasional bedroom door during a disagreement.
Photo via iStock.
So, for parents who are feeling doubtful about whether or not their kids appreciate their hard work, here are five stories of teens who were just waiting for the right moment to show their gratitude.
1. Without money for a gift, this single mom's daughter made a touching gesture.
When Kira Allen's daughter Vivian was 17 years old, Kira didn't think she'd be getting a gift for Mother's Day.
"As a single mom, I've always done my best to meet our necessities," the California mom explains. She liked to cook for her kids, especially her delicious homemade blueberry-apple crisp.
But that year, Kira says, "We were too broke for gifts."
Kira was just returning to work after medical leave for issues including severe anemia, sleep apnea, and a high risk for stroke. She'd originally only planned to take two weeks off, but once she got to the bottom of her medical needs, she realized she was in "a battle for survival," so her medical leave went on for another three and a half months.
However, even though they were short on money, Vivian didn't want to disappoint her mom by leaving her empty-handed on Mother's Day, especially after the year she'd had. So, she wrote Kira a heartfelt note.
Vivian's note to her mother. Image via Kira Allen.
"Dear Queen," she began. "Without you there is nothing. No sun, no moon, no stars — in my world."
Today, Vivian is 23 years old and away at college, and she's missing her mom's blueberry-apple crisp. But her note is still where she left it, on her mom's nightstand. "It still means more to me than anything she could have ever purchased," Kira says.
2. A tattoo went from giving a dad a scare to being his greatest gift.
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In April 2018, Richard, a dad from New Jersey, thought he was getting the shock of his life when his 18-year-old son Jonathan sent him this text: "Guess what dad I'm getting a tattoo."
Richard worried that Jonathan was making a rash decision. However, when he saw what his son chose for his new ink, he was surprised in the best way. Jonathan's tattoo was a set of Roman numerals marking the day that his dads adopted him.
"I was so taken aback," Richard told the parenting website Gays With Kids. Jonathan was 5 years old when he was adopted, and as the years passed, his father wondered if he'd forgotten the date. But now, Jonathan's first tattoo will always remind him that his son is forever thankful for the day they became a family.
3. This daughter's personalized messages to her mom fit every occasion.
Sarah Davis (left) with her mother, LaTonya. Photo by Holly Pohl Photography, used with permission.
Sarah Davis was 17 years old on Mother's Day in 2017, and she wanted to give her mom, LaTonya, something unique — a gift LaTonya could enjoy for years to come.
Sarah had recognized the sacrifices that her mom made for her while growing up. In fact, as a teenager, she had even begun taking on some of LaTonya's household tasks herself in order to give her mom a little extra help. For example, when LaTonya was having a bad day, Sarah would clean the fridge, the pantry, or other common areas.
But to do something really special for Mother's Day, Sarah wrote a collection of personalized notes along with instructions on which note to read when, such as "when you need a smile," "when you can't sleep," and "when you're missing me."
As soon as she saw the instructions, LaTonya had a touching realization: Her daughter must have put a lot of thought into this gift.
Sarah's instructions for her gift to her mom. Image via LaTonya Davis.
"I haven't opened all of the notes yet because I feel like it's the gift I don't ever want to end," LaTonya says.
She continues, "[Sarah] regularly shows appreciation for all of the opportunities afforded to her, but this reminded me that she sees me not only as a mom but as a whole person."
4. A birthday gift got one mom's unique wishes exactly right.
"Birthdays have always been a source of conflict for me," Asha Rajan says.
Growing up, she was raised to believe that being a girl or a woman meant making yourself "small" by avoiding drawing attention to yourself. She carried that belief into parenting, often sacrificing her own moments of celebration to make sure her kids received attention instead of herself.
And that's exactly what made Asha's 2018 birthday so memorable — her teenage sons, Nik and Milan, got the celebration just right. The day included breakfast by Nik, an ice cream cake with candles, and a homemade card that Milan decorated with a painting he'd made in fifth grade.
Asha with her sons, Milan (left) and Nik (right), in 2014. Image via Asha Rajan.
"Having my teens recognise [my] quandary and celebrate me with love and humor while still not making it too much about me made me feel understood," she says.
“I adore being the mother of teens — all the smelly sports clothes and wet stinky towels notwithstanding!”
5. This college freshman's sweet tribute to his dad went viral in his first week of school.
Every year since kindergarten, Charles Brockman III's first day of school started out the same. His parents, Sherry and Charles Jr., would walk him into school and take a photo.
At times, he found the tradition embarrassing (especially while in high school), but once he left home for the first time to go to college, he actually missed his parents' annual display of support and encouragement.
So after the 17-year-old settled into his new dorm room as a freshman at Mississippi State University, Charles wanted to say a simple thanks. He tweeted side-by-side photos of his dad walking him to school, along with the words, "From the first day of kindergarten to college move in. Thank you dad."
By the time classes started, his tribute had been retweeted more than 64,000 times and liked more than 263,000 times.
"[My parents] have pretty much supported me in everything I do," Charles told NBC News a couple of weeks later. "Knowing that makes me want to be successful and make them proud. I don't mind sharing that."
No matter how big or small, a teen's gesture of appreciation is a reminder to parents everywhere that their love, care, and sacrifice has huge meaning.
Image via iStock.
And kids aren’t the only ones who’d like to celebrate all of the hard-working parents out there. Whirlpool has created "Congrats, parents" as part of its Every day, care® campaign in order to share uplifting messages for the parents of the class of ‘18.
After all, the class of ‘18 wouldn’t have made it to graduation day without the sacrifices that so many parents make for their kids. Throughout the journey towards graduation, those parents have put their time toward preparing their kids’ meals, making sure they always had clean clothes, and keeping the house in order along the way.
That’s why, even when teenagers are caught up in their own lives or when they don't have money for lavish gifts, they can still find unique ways to reveal just how much they care about their parents. These gestures can appear when you least expect it — which, in turn, makes them all the more meaningful.