As I patiently sit in my deer stand, watching the woods fill with darkness, I am able to enjoy the quiet solitude of nature while finding peace, solace, understanding, meaning, and connection to myself. I am able to think more clearly and most if not all of my problems seem to find answers. I am able to relax and know I am in a part of the world with no need to impress anyone. I sit silently and begin to think about the legacy I am building for my kids. And so my next blog begins…..
It seems as if the world is becoming crueler every day and so many, and I would wager to say most of us, are treading water and trying to keep afloat in this culture of unkindness. It’s easy to take the ugly angry way out. To name call, to hate, to sling mud. When adults act this way, why on earth would kids act any differently? This culture where it seems the Trump’s of the world are prevailing. Where it seems that nothing is off limits and nothing is too rude or shocking. It just keeps getting more and more over the top hurtful and unkind. Most of the time, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that people are good, but there are handfuls that are not and that’s a hard pill for me to swallow.
Remember the “Golden Rule?” Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated? Have you ever tried it? It actually works if you work it! Of course, we cannot make everybody adhere to this “rule.” That’s the hardest part. Kindness, hope and my kids are my weapons. It is our responsibility as parents to mold our kids into decent human beings.
When thinking about a legacy, monetary possessions are often the first to come to mind. Parents want to make sure their children are well taken care of through trusts and are intentional to plan out wills and beneficiaries—who gets what and when. The goal is to make sure that children are cared for and receive designated gifts and inheritance from the parents. What about the non-material legacy, though? What do parents pass down to their children that a price cannot be put upon? Whether it be family traditions, personality characteristics, or repeated habits, children have a strong tendency toward imitating the actions and behaviors of their parents. This is the legacy that we as parents are living out daily right in front of our children. Whether we think about it or not, part of what children are learning from their parents is the legacy of what we teach, both in words and in actions.
The more time you invest in your children, the more chances you have to leave an imprint in their lives. As you support them from the sidelines, tend to them during difficult times, or have family sit down dinners together, you are investing in quality time spent together and opening endless opportunities to show them how much you love and care for them. This time together puts actions to your words.
My fire is fueled because I signed up for this as a mother. I signed up for the continuing education – the Master’s Degree if you will – when I had my daughter and became a step-mom. It is my responsibility to raise them in a way that they can ward off evil and do good in spite of it. I used to say I didn’t want to bring children into such a terrible world, but then when they came into my life, the world suddenly became less terrible because of them. A legacy is not leaving what you have EARNED, but rather what you have LEARNED and we all have an opportunity to make a difference. So where can you start? Here are some things I try to inspire in my own kids:
I want them to be empathetic. This is probably the most important legacy I want to leave and for them to remember me by. I want them to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. I want them to understand that they don’t live in a vacuum and that they should always consider how their behavior makes others feel. I want them to have understanding and compassion for the people around them.
I want them to have boundaries. I want my kids to offer kindness to others, but also understand that they can say “no” or choose to distance themselves from people who are unhealthy in their lives. I want them to understand that forgiveness and love can be extended to someone without allowing them to walk all over you or continue bad behavior.
I want them to be good citizens. I want my kids to be concerned with things happening outside their own little bubble. I want them to be interested in other’s beliefs and to understand the shared humanity of everyone living on this planet. I want them to see the world and to be able to feel a connection to its fellow citizens regardless of our differences.
I want them to learn how to fail. I can never protect them from the frustrations, hurts, and failures that are inherent in the human experience. I try to find a balance between protecting them and allowing them to experience life. While I can’t fix all of their problems, I will help them figure out how to handle them. I want them to learn how to deal with struggles, and to have the confidence to know they can handle whatever obstacles they face. I will be there and walk beside them, but I will also let them fail and learn and grow from that experience. I won’t wrap them in bubble tape because they need to develop resilience before they go out into the world.
I want them to be okay with being imperfect. I don’t ever want my kids to feel like they can’t live up to my expectations, or that they need to be perfect to earn my love. As difficult as it may be, I want to show them by example that it’s OK to mess up. It’s OK to flat-out fail. Mistakes happen, but I want my children to know that they can always start over or try again. I’m proof that it can be done. I’m learning that it’s not my place to manage every aspect of my kid’s life and to trust in their own abilities to make good decisions.
I am proud of them. I want my kids to know that I am always proud of them, regardless of what path they choose. I want them to feel free to choose their own passions, which may be different from my own.
Our family is the most important thing. I want our home to always be a safe place to land. I want my kids to feel like I have their back well after their launch out of our house to start their own lives. I hope that they feel like our relationship is one they want to cultivate not out of obligation but because there is a great bond there. I think this starts when they are little – by making sure that they always feel valued and loved in our household, not just as a visiting place between two households every other weekend.
As I continue to sit, there is an overwhelming power in my thoughts that I can have such influence on another’s person’s life and it is both wonderful and humbling.