'Thanks Mom, thanks Dad' [Commentary]

Commentator Ben Stein scolds the kids

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Economist and funny man Ben Stein, who regularly delivers his contrarian views in a grouchy monotone on "CBS Sunday Morning," can whipsaw you between furious disagreement and fist-pumping assent faster than you thought possible.

He's Jewish, but has no problem with Christmas or with anyone wishing him a Merry Christmas. But he despises Darwinism and anyone who believes in evolution, and believes it was science like this that led to the Holocaust. He's conservative, but he doesn't think President Barack Obama is to blame for the recession.

He does not think gun control is the answer to gun violence — just that crazy people should not be allowed to acquire guns so easily. He hosted an award winning game show in which he gave away his own money, and he played that incredibly boring teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which is what people still recognize him for.

But on "CBS Sunday Morning" this week, a segment of viewers was almost certainly in his corner: parents. He made a passionate — well, passionate for him — case that children should be regularly thanking their parents for all they do.

He began by describing a conversation with a couple of young women in a drug treatment facility who regretted the heartache they had caused their parents.

"Do you ever thank them?" he asked. Well, um, sometimes, was the reply.

"This got me to thinking. Do we, even if we might be adults who are not drug addicts, think back to what our parents have done for us?

"Do we think of how our parents basically are our servants, and we their masters, for decades, and how rarely we show them any gratitude?"

He spoke with regret about how cavalierly he had treated his own parents, who had struggled during the Depression to provide a decent life and an education for him "and yet I thought nothing of living like a playboy once I got into college."

At this point in his commentary, Mr. Stein marshals all his emotion and scolds, "Wake the heck up if you are blessed enough to have living parents who treated you decently.

"They sacrificed more for you than you could ever understand, until you are parents," he said.

Give your parents, and yourself, the gift of gratitude — expressed often, loudly and with real sincerity — because nothing will ever mean more to them, he said. Nothing. Ever.

"And when they are gone, you will be glad you did it for the rest of your life."

The key moment in Mr. Stein's commentary is when he says that this gratitude is a gift to parents, but it is also a gift to you. And he speaks about the regret you will not have to feel when your parents are gone.

But telling your parents that you know what they have done for you and you are grateful for it is not just a way for your future self to dodge remorse.

Doing this requires you to spend, I don't know, 45 seconds thinking of the things your parents have done for you. Do that and the gratitude part will follow.

Saying thank you to your parents will make you a better child, but it will also make you a better parent when it is your turn. You will have at your fingertips a catalog of what it takes to do that job.

Mr. Stein is correct. Except for snuggling on Sunday mornings and merry-go-rounds, parenthood is pretty much all sacrifice. Let your parents know you noticed.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Fridays. She can be reached at susan.reimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.


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