I received a very cool gift from my daughter for Christmas this year. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Now that I am a grandparent, I realize even more how much effort is involved in being a parent of young children. With both parents working there are always trade-offs that will allow each parent to take care of work obligations, while creating some compromise for the other parent. These trade-offs can often mean that if you intend to have dinner with each other and the children, it may happen later than you would like, forcing a rush to get the kid(s) to bed at a decent hour. Or, one parent is fixing dinner, or picking up dinner, and having dinner with the children, while the other parent, if lucky, gets some time with their children before they go to bed.
Our attachment to our phones, social media, Net Flix, or other distractions can create additional stressors on the amount and quality of time that we spend with our children. We are challenged to be present in their lives. Depending on our awareness, and our choices, these challenges can permeate far more than just parenting.
I don’t know if I instinctively knew much about parenting. What I did know was that I wanted to be more present for my child/ children than what the men of my father’s generation typically were. Laying this ‘groundwork’ with my daughter was particularly valuable when her mother and I divorced when she was eight.
As my daughter grew, I became more aware that one of the most important things I could do was create memories for and with her. Whether that was through travel, or rituals that we built together, it didn’t matter – these were the pieces that she would take into adulthood that helped her anchor her relationship with me. Creating those memories often were a by-product of knowing the things we enjoyed doing together.
I believe many parents are challenged by knowing if they are a ‘good parent.’ This can be exacerbated if they have a child or children who did, or continues to, struggle. This can be a very difficult place for parents, and one that requires tolerance and forgiveness – of ourselves.
Grand parenting is a place of a ‘longer view’ of raising children, what’s most important, and creating memories. Grand parenting can be a ‘second chance’ for some parents, who came to understand where they wanted to do better than they did with their own children.
Jourdan’s ‘gift’ to me this Christmas was a small book entitled, Letters to My Dad. Inside are pages that look like envelopes. The envelopes fold out providing space to write what is important to her. There are twelves separate envelopes, each labeled.
Envelope 1: “A special memory I have of you is…”
Envelope 2: “From you, I learned the importance of…”
Envelope 3: “One thing I’m glad we share is…”
Envelope 4: “I always think of you when…”
Envelope 5: “I love that our family is…”
Envelope 6: “One thing I admire about you is…”
Envelope 7: “The best adventure we’ve had together was…”
Envelope 8: “I always wanted to tell you…”
Envelope 9: “Thank you for…”
Envelope 10: “In the future, I hope we…”
The last two are hers to determine what topic she would most like to write about. The envelopes are designed to be opened one per month. What a wonderful gift. One that will keep giving all year. (And yes, for those of you who know me, I did have tears when I opened the book.)
We likely know more about how our children have impacted us, than how we have impacted them. (Maybe that is a sharing conversation to have with your child/children. It is important for your child to understand how they have impacted you, and, your impact on them – to know what memories you have helped create.)
What I have come to understand is that memories are incredibly important, for you and your child. While there are memories for me that were large events (i.e. the trip to Disney World), the ones that seem to stand out the most are the simplest of times, and the tiniest of moments – coloring Easter eggs, making Christmas cookies, conversations in the car, attending her school functions, sitting in front of the stereo speakers (I’m old, they were big), and helping my child ‘feel the music,’ hours of basketball and softball, taking the dog for a walk, exploring, photo dates, and…countless hours of talking – creating a safe place for conversation and feelings.
From these times, and others, comes memories, comes relationship. Out of the relationship comes influence, and forgiveness for all the mistakes you both will make.
It’s the first month of the new year. Is there an opportunity for you to create more memories, new memories, different memories? I know that my answer is, always!
To a better you…