I recently asked our readers, “What would you like your children or grandchildren to remember about you?”
And I was humbled by the responses.
Of course, this doesn’t have to apply to just parents or grandparents. It can apply to aunts and uncles, teachers, mentors, family friends—anyone who has a significant influence on a young person.
Overwhelmingly, the response was that we want our youth to know that they were loved—and this shows me how big our hearts are, collectively, and the power we have as a society to care for what matters. (Can we apply that same passion for things like equal rights and climate change? I hope so. I have faith in us.)
I was inspired (and in some cases, humored) by the many unique and fun answers that were shared by our readers, though, and I couldn’t help but want to share them further. They inspire me to continue to improve how I parent, even though my kids are now adults.
Because ultimately, how we parent is a small representation of the bigger picture of how we live our lives, good and bad. Do we live with a great sense of humor? We probably parent with it, too. Have we healed our trauma yet? If not, we might pass it on to our kids. Do we care about the planet and make choices to heal it? Our kids will, too. Do we have compassion for people, even in their worst moments? We will show that compassion to our kids when they’re struggling…and later, they will show it to us when we need it, too.
Here are some of the best legacies, or teachings, or ways of being that we will leave behind for our children—and, should we be so lucky, that will span generations:
1. Remembering to find the humor in everything.
2. That the generational trauma stopped with me.
3. The little things: “I hope she remembers the nights we spent making wishes on shooting stars, looking at lightning in the sky, the songs we sang together every night before falling asleep, cooking together, singing and dancing in the kitchen like two crazy people, consoling each other, taking pictures on our long walks…” Or, “That I showed them the moon, the stars, dandelions, and snowflakes.”
4. “I’m always telling my children to ‘eat the broccoli first.’ Meaning don’t procrastinate the tasks you don’t feel like doing. Face them head on and get them out the way first, then there’s more time to enjoy the good things in life.”
5. Showing up: “I was there. I was a mess the whole time…I had no idea what I was doing or if I was doing it right, but I was there, and my love for them was absolutely unconditional.” Or, “That I saw and understood who they are, and I loved them fiercely through whatever came our way.”
7. A seriously underrated response: “That I was interested in them.” This is so very important.
8. “That no matter what, they had a safe space with me. Safe to be themselves. A place they can rest, be fed, be loved, and strengthened to keep on going in this sometimes harsh world.” (This is my dream—to always provide a “safe space” no matter how old my children are. This one especially hit home because I’ve never really had this for myself. I loved this response.)
9. This was just so down-to-earth and silly and cute and warmed my heart—from a granddad: “That I was happy, funny, a bit different, and could dance—with more piercings and tattoos than anybody else in the family.” Also: “I was a little weird, but lots of fun.”
10: Kindness: “You can grow up to be anything you want. But the best thing to be is kind.”
11. The basics—haha! “Where I live,” and “my phone number.” (Don’t forget to call your grandma!)
12. “We once lived on Earth.” (Scarily true if things don’t change.)