In May, we honor mothers. In June, we celebrate fathers. The fourth Sunday in July is set aside in the U.S. as National Parents Day – a time to acknowledge parents of all kinds, recognizing the vital role they play in not just raising children, but in building our future.

We asked our team members to share thoughts and experiences on parenthood, what they have learned along the way, and their hopes for the future.

John Pennington, eCommerce customer development manager, fresh meats & deli:

John and his children, Lucy and Ernie

Our first child, Lucy, was born in October 2011. I was 28 years old and equal parts excited and terrified at the prospect of being a father. Ten years later, I have two kids: Lucy, now 10, and Ernie, who is six and a textbook younger brother. I now have a decade’s worth of parenting practice under my belt, but I feel much the same as I did on day one – excited and terrified.

My wife, Suzanne, has been very successful in her professional career. This success, however, has also meant ongoing and extensive travel. With Mom away, I have assumed the role of chief caregiver to our kids for most of their lives: meeting teachers and chaperoning playdates; kissing hurt elbows and punishing bad behavior. I coach Ernie’s baseball teams and drive Lucy to gymnastics meets and live life at a consistently frenetic pace.

I remain excited because these kids provide me with what I consider the greatest reason to be: I get to be a constant and critical part of their growth and greatness. I’ve been blessed to have a hand in their growth and development, and I am the proudest dad you can imagine (so proud, in fact, I put the “kid activity” decals on the back of my car. Candidly, I’ve teared up twice writing this one paragraph.).

I remain terrified because I fear I will fail them. Much of the time I am not the strong, confident, handle-it-all captain they believe me to be. What if they see through my false bravado? What will happen if I cause Lucy to be late to gym again? Why can’t I correct Ernie’s behavior at school? What am I doing wrong?

For me, being a parent is being superhuman: I have the ability to laugh on the outside while inwardly chewing fingernails. I can give everything to my career, then don the coach’s cap and out-energy Ernie and his teammates at every practice. I might be joyful and scared in the same breath, but I’m definitely a great dad all the while.

In a line, parenting has taught me to be proud of myself. For me, it’s the only game in town, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Elisabeth Ricci, team performance manager:

Elisabeth and her family

For me, parenthood is all about sharing and experiencing our family’s traditions and history in a way that creates pride and respect as our children develop into adults. Having a strong foundation of where you come from provides strength and confidence as you step out into the world to learn and grow.

I love making memories with my kids. My children are nine, seven, and four. They inspire me with their positive attitudes and creativity. I learn from their optimistic thought process around failure and learning from mistakes. We are excited to create opportunities for our kids and to support their passions and interests.

Our goal is to make the world a better place, and one of the most impactful ways we can do this is by raising kind and respectful humans.

Ed Emmer, sales account manager:

Ed and his daughter, Christina
Ed and his daughter, Daniella

“Who you are becoming is more important than who you’ve been.”

I was married for 31 years, have been divorced for a little over four, and my youngest daughter came out to me when she was 16 years old and still in high school. She just turned 21in April and my oldest just turned 30.

I have always boldly supported both of my girls and have been open minded to their needs as they’ve grown up, but I was especially proud to find out I was the first person my Daniella ever came out to.

From the time they were young up until this day, I’ve always had a very close relationship with both of my children, and we can talk about anything. And I do mean anything.

It’s never easy being the father of two girls, especially when you yourself are the oldest of three brothers. There are even significantly more challenges to being a good father when you’re divorced. But parenthood has meant everything to me, and one of the more important things it has taught me is, open communication between a parent and their child can lead to mutual respect and understanding. 

I don’t profess to understand everything about my kids; however, I do learn something new from both of them on a regular basis, and they inspire me in the following three ways:

  • To continue learning about these changing times
  • To keep up with what’s going on all around us
  • And to better myself as a person each and every day.

I’m excited about the future, and I aspire to be more educated, more informed, more tolerant, and just a better person today than I was yesterday.

Kelsey Izquierdo, food scientist:

Kelsey and her daughter on Mother’s Day

I always wanted to be a mother, and the day I found I was going to be one was one of the best days of my life. Fast forward nine months, and when my daughter was born, I thought I was ready. I thought I knew what parenting was and how to do it. I found out quickly I was wrong, and that each child is different.

My daughter soon taught me to let go, which is extremely hard for me. I like control and for things to be perfect! She taught me perfection doesn’t exist, and we must strive to do our best for ourselves and family. The past three years with her have been the best, and I wouldn’t change it for anything! My daughter is my light and whole world.

Frances Silva, specialist compliance:

Frances and her daughter, Cobie Lee

My daughter, Cobie Lee, is my rock. We are supposed to be the anchor for our children, but my daughter is mine. She and I have been through so much together and without her, I would not be who I am.

I’ve always considered myself open minded and allowed other to express themselves. I think we all would like to think we’d react certain ways, but it’s different when life touches you directly. I never considered what I would do if my child came out to me. But when my daughter did, I was shocked and afraid for her. The first response I had was to ask if this is who she truly was and what she truly wanted. I prayed and cried, but at the end of the day, I am happy for her. Happy she found what most of us spend a lifetime wondering: who am I?

I am so proud of her, of the strong, confident, smart, outgoing person she has become. She has inspired me to always have hope. She and her partner are planning for their future and children of their own which brings me joy.

Alicia Buffer, communications manager:

Alicia’s children

As a little girl, it was my dream to be a mother. I was the attentive toddler toting around five baby dolls at once and the eager pre-teen always offering to babysit. I patiently waited for the right opportunity to become a parent, and the moment it happened, it changed my world forever. The closest description I’ve found to describe what it feels like to be a parent is that it’s like having your heart walk around outside your body. That’s accurate. 

Children are funny creatures. Very early on, they have their own thoughts, personalities, and perspectives. It’s interesting; I always had grand ideas of what kind of mother I would be and becoming a parent is a humbling experience. We have a 7-year-old little boy and a 1-year-old daughter. Life is busy, and most days, we’re simply surviving between school, work and many activities. But the moments I feel that they’re learning, growing – that we’re slowly shaping these little people into the wonderful humans I hope they will be – is when we are working outside together as a family. 

My husband and I have learned some of our greatest lessons from raising and caring for animals on our family farms, and we feel blessed to have the opportunity to pass that lifestyle on to our children. Watching our son band a new bull calf for the first time or showing our little girl how many scoops of feed her pony gets – these small, daily actions may seem uneventful, but the lessons that come from them will last a lifetime. These chores are valuable in teaching them compassion, care, commitment, and confidence. I pray often we don’t fail them.

On National Parents’ Day, my wish for our children is a magical childhood filled with wonder and big, big love. But most importantly, I hope that they have all the tools to become good people who know how to care for others. We owe that to them and the world.