Bruce Feiler, NYT family columnist and the best-selling author of The Secrets of Happy Families, advises us to tell our story:
The most important thing you can do may be the easiest of all. Tell your children the story of their family. Children who know more about their parents, grandparents, and other relatives – both their ups and their downs – have higher self-esteem and greater confidence to confront their own challenges. Researchers have found that knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being.
In that vein, I am expanding upon an earlier post that I wrote about my father:
This past February marked 40 years since my father passed away. At the time of his death, he was a father of three and a grandfather of six. I wish he knew that all these years later, his children and grandchildren (two of whom are grandparents, themselves) would hold vivid and treasured memories of him close to their hearts. Through his words and actions, he set a standard that we tried to emulate in key areas of our lives. Probably that was his hope; he made all the small moments with each of us count.
All those small moments added up to so many memories swirling in my mind. Living in an urban area, he raised luscious tomatoes in our backyard, tenderly nurturing them and transplanting them into the most advantageous spots. In the winter, he flooded the same backyard to create an ice-rink for my niece and me. When one of his grandchildren inadvertently locked herself in the bathroom, he scrambled up a ladder and climbed into the high second-floor bathroom window to free her. He paid his bills promptly and only promised what he could deliver—he believed in keeping his reputation and word pristine. He never ran an errand without offering one of his grandkids the chance to accompany him and get some one-on-one time. He was always prepared—for the good and the not-so-good: his pocket could produce change for the Good Humor man, sticks of gum, a strong rubber band and a fresh handkerchief.
So many memories and anecdotes come to mind…let me choose one more that exemplified the man. In January of 1967, the largest single snowfall in Chicago history blanketed—and crippled— the city. At that time, I was in high school (and my dad in his sixties) and had a weekend job downtown at the Art Institute. Getting there required me to take a bus and then the El (elevated subway), as well as do some walking. However, when Saturday dawned—the day after 23 inches of snow covered Chicago— I was sure that no one expected me to show up at work. I was wrong…my dad expected me to. Somehow, in this pre-Google world, my dad checked out that some public transportation was still running, and that I would be able to make the trek to the Art Institute. I was left with no choice, but I was not left alone. Clearly it was important to him that I honor my commitments—if possible— but his loving, protective side led him to make the trip with me to ensure that I arrived safely at my destination. He would not ask me to do what he would not. His sense of fun and curiosity turned our commute into a mini-adventure.
Unfortunately, my children never met him, which is one reason why it is important to me to pass on these family stories and honor my father’s legacy. And I think it’s clear why I named my beautiful son, Max, after my father.
Think about the family narrative that you want to create and share with your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.