How Will Your Children Remember You?
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
The way you parent your kids affects them for the rest of their lives. Just like the way your parents treated you has ripple effects to this day. Likewise, the way your grandparents treated your parents influenced the way they raised you.
Your family history provides a foundation for how you approach parenting. You are responsible for incorporating what worked well and changing what didn’t. You also must update your approach for the latest cultural and societal transformations.
Blaming your parents is not helpful. They likely did the best they could with their level of awareness at the time. Forgiving their mistakes – though not forgetting – frees your heart to make new choices.
What will your children remember about you?
What is the overall flavor of your relationship with your children? What do you think they will remember about you after they are grown up? Considering questions like these can help you prioritize what matters most.
While there are daily ups and downs in any relationship, when you look back those bumps smooth out and you can see patterns. Certain themes and memories stand out.
What themes stand out when you think about your parents? For me, my mom was someone who looked out for us even when we thought we didn't need her looking out for us. She would wait up until we got home even when we wished she had gone to sleep so she wouldn't notice we were a little later than we had agreed on. She would wake me up for a delicious French toast breakfast even when what I really wanted to do was sleep in.
She made my favorite chocolate cake for my birthday each year. She tried to find presents that would delight me. She was always willing to sit and listen to whatever I wanted to talk about. She supported me even when she didn't agree with my decisions. She often said "let your conscience be your guide" when she really wanted to say don't you dare do that!
At the end of my mom's life, I remember her as someone who tried her best to show up and be loving while keeping her kids safe. She never wanted to hurt anyone and sometimes would not say what was on her mind due to feeling like it might cause harm.
What stories do you tell about your children?
Are there stories your parents tell about you when you were young? Are there certain stories they repeat? These stories may encapsulate an overall theme that describes you. The stories you tell about your own kids highlight what you see in them.
There was one story my mom repeatedly told about me when I was young. She had put me on a soft blanket in the backyard and went into the house to do something. When she got back, she was scared when she realized I was no longer on the blanket. I had crawled over to the garage instead of staying on the blanket! She was shocked and disappointed that I couldn't be satisfied being on a blanket and had to go explore somewhere else.
That little incident describes both of us. She wanted to keep me safe and wanted me to be satisfied staying on the blanket. On the other hand, I was not content staying in one place and wanted to explore.
My tendency to explore continued. Eventually I got married and moved from my hometown of Minneapolis to Seattle. Although my mom really didn’t want me moving so far away, she supported me. I made a commitment to go back with my husband and our kids at least once a year for the next 35 years.
How will your relationship with your children change?
The parent-child relationship is the deepest, longest relationship many will have in their lives. Your relationship will change over time. When your kids are little it’s hard to imagine them growing up and being on their own. Once they are adults, you wonder where the time went.
My relationship with my mom changed over time. My parents were best friends and I can’t remember ever seeing them fight. After my dad died in 2009, I called my mom every day to try to fill in the tremendous gap. We grew closer in ways that I didn't anticipate when I was younger.
Eventually she developed dementia and we needed make choices for her. She didn’t want to move out of our family home and yet we moved her to a memory care facility. In many ways our roles reversed.
Her kindness remained until the end. One of her caregivers wrote “She was a light to all around her, constantly putting smiles on everyone's faces with her adorable giggle and endearing heart. She was someone who I could talk to and my attitude would be positively impacted.
My favorite part about getting her ready for bed was that every night before I left the room she would say ‘I love you!’ and blow me a kiss. She was always so thankful for our care and it was so sweet. She would tell me, ‘Your mother must be SO proud of you!’ and ‘You’re a good kid.’”
Although my mom has died, her love remains. Your love for your children is a priceless gift. The time you share together makes memories that will last even after you are gone.