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RAISING A TOAST TO PARENTS WHO GO THE EXTRA MILE

As the school year winds down and some of us can take that well-deserved deep breath, I want to say bravo and acknowledge the unsung heroes in the lives of children. As you wrap that teacher/coach gift, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

Bravo to all of the parents -- dads and moms alike -- who have endured countless hours of sporting events and practices. Well done to those of us who have picked up and dropped off children at music lessons, dance classes, ball games, after-school activities and lessons of all kinds.

Bravo to the parents who have been in the classroom this year, helping, motivating by the single reward of the beaming smile your child has sent your way. The smile that announces to all: "That's my mom (or dad)."

Applause for all of the parents known only as someone's "mom." Rest assured your given name will be resurrected someday. My own mother assures me that I will have a quiet house to myself in the near future, the thought of which often causes me to shed a tear or two.

Some would argue that we run the risk of losing ourselves by becoming too involved in our children's lives. I can't think of a better place to become lost than in a world of youth and enthusiasm.

Thank you to all parents for getting involved, for knowing who your child's friends are, for hosting countless get-togethers at your house, for making sure those friends are good influences, for piling kids in your van and car-pooling because your child is comfortable enough with your willingness to volunteer you yet again.

I personally love the confines of an automobile. I have shared my choicest pearls of wisdom with many children unable to escape my advice.

Thank you for not being able to say no when asked to help out. Thank you for risking that grimace from your teenager as you cross the line of being too involved. It is when you have reached the point of every teacher knowing your name, and your greatest admirers are only 3 feet tall, that you have helped create a generation.

Thank you for the endless schedule adjustments as priorities shift. I know too well the struggle to adjust and readjust schedules. Our family has been blessed with many understanding coaches, teachers and employers. Perhaps they themselves are jugglers.

The biggest thank you of all is for realizing which priority comes first, the one you get one shot at. It is in sharing ourselves, giving to those we can -- not our money and discarded articles, but our time and energy -- that we teach our children the true value of commitment.

It has been said that children learn what they live. They may not remember that ride to the rink at 6 a.m. on a wintry Sunday morning now, but I have to believe that as they stand in my shoes someday, watching my grandchildren chase their dreams, they will recall a season that their parents quietly taught them the meaning of altruistic love.

A toast, therefore, to all of us involved parents. Bravo for a job well done! May we continue in our quest to raise our most treasured gifts, after we take that well-deserved cleansing breath.

JUDITH MASTERS, of Snyder, is a registered nurse with Kaleida Health who has voluntarily put her career on hold to raise her three daughters, and is loving every second of it.
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