How Will Your Kids Remember You?
When I am down on the floor playing “dress up dah-wees (dollies)” with Katie I sometimes find myself trying to subliminally imprint the experience on her. Remember, this moment, Katie. Forget about all the time I spend cooking, cleaning, on the computer and running errands. Remember THIS. Pleeeeeaaaaaase.
The truth is, though, I spend much less time dressing dollies than I do keeping my home. Statistically the odds are not in my favor. At least that’s what I used to think. According to Drs. Les and Lesley Parrott, though . . .
Who You Are Matters More Than What You Do
I have thousands of memories of my parents. Some are mundane, others are painful, sweet and/or hilarious. I have memories I know they went to great lengths to create, like trips to Disney World and the Caribbean. Despite their intentions, what really stands out is who they were, not what they did. Even in the most perfectly orchestrated Kodak moment, I most vividly recall my fathers reserved emotions and my mothers warmth.
In The Parent You Want To Be, Les and Leslie Parrot challenge parents to shift their focus from trying to “make memories” to intentionally becoming memorable. The goal is more than immortalizing ourselves in our children’s eyes. I’m sure we would all like that, but the idea of this book is that who our kids become is not accidental.
Can you think of a time when your child totally embarrassed you by doing something they learned by watching YOU? I have. Though it’s no fun, I try to think of it as a needed reminder that my child is learning how to “be” in the world from me.
Your traits matter because your child is watching you more closely than you know. A haunting reminder of just how powerful we are as parental role models is found in the Harry Chapiun classic “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Written in 1974, this song depicts the tale of a father with his newborn son. The first time we hear the chorus, the dad is saying:
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I’m going to be like you.”
But by the end of the tune, which has followed their relationship through the boy’s tenth birthday, his college years, and finally the father’s retirement, the chorus is bittersweet. It seems the son, who has moved away and started his own family, picked up the one quality his father hoped he wouldn’t pass along – the quality of being too busy for relationships. The father has called his son to see if the two of them can get together. “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time,” answers his son. In the final chorus, the father’s words ring true:
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.
Select Your Intentional Traits, Then Watch Them Bloom In Your Child
“A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” ~Francois Rabelais
When you think of your son or daughter as an adult, what do you see? Do you hope they’ll be insightful, authentic, or visionary? If you’re anything like I was, you might think these traits are too conceptual to model in everyday life. This book changed my mind.*
My children will be grown before I get the hang of the traits I’ve selected (I picked patience as one of my traits). In the spirit of authenticity (hmmm. . . is that another one?), I admit that I fail daily. But having something to aim for has helped me make small changes. I return again and again to this book when I am discouraged or lost when it comes to parenting. While this book doesn’t tell me how to gracefully pry my tantruming two year-old off of Barnes and Nobles’ floor, it reminds me why I endure public humiliation, sleep deprivation, and a myriad of other discomforts.*Note: The Parent You Want To Be was written by Christians so it has some themes in it that may not interest everyone. However, I believe the vast majority of the book would appeal to any parent.