There comes a point in life, when you at least consider your own death. For most of us, this doesn’t come until life seems to calm down and our children have grown to the bittersweet age of being able to take care of themselves. And on this day, when you sit rewinding the internal files that live in your brain of the days gone past, memories both good and bad – you will wonder, how will my children remember me? Too often, what you may want them to remember you by and what they will remember are entirely two different things.
Think back to your own childhood for a moment. Your parents took you to Disney World, your dad took you fishing on the weekends, and your mom seemed to love Christmas. Their behavior and their actions on these momentous occasions had some affect on you. Then there is the laundry list of memories that you have, only because you were told about them. Somehow, being told about your life through someone else’s memories doesn’t seem personal – but nonetheless they are ingrained in your life record.
Then, there are all the things that you do remember. There are conversations you had with your mom and dad that perhaps didn’t end so well. There are the things you went without, the moments that you just couldn’t understand the way your parents think. There were the sibling fights, the stressful moments that happen in every family. There were feelings of insecurity, distrust, and unfairness. A child growing up, doesn’t normally remember things the same as the parents. Why? Because as parents, we often work so hard to try and ‘create’ events rather than just live in the moment.
There are also a great deal of issues that children don’t feel they have the right to talk about with mom and dad. They get used to the fact that Dad is too busy to play baseball in the yard. They understand that mom is tired after raising so many kids and wants to be left alone. They begin to fit into the folds of life, sinking deep into the creases – hiding their own feelings, desires and dreams of having the perfect parents in lieu of the fact that they know you are doing your best. And sadly, your eulogy – although compelling, will be scripted like every other one you have ever heard. But what they will remember are very often things that they won’t mention at your funeral.
For instance, they will remember how dad looked in his police uniform. They will remember how dad loved his Redskins (or whatever team) and how mom liked to sew dresses that they never appreciated. They might remember a certain Christmas, the smell of certain meals that could only be dittoed in their own home. Your children will remember that creaky step, the one dad never got around to fixing, that drove mom to insanity. They might remember ugly things as well. Essentially, they remember life –the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they knew it at the time. And they remember parents that way as well. Sometimes strong and steady, other times weak and sporadic.
How will my children remember me? Hopefully fondly. Parents make mistakes. There is no getting around not always doing the right thing even if you are a mother or a father. Yet, it bears mentioning that rather than waiting for a time to sit back and recollect or wonder about how your children will remember you – begin living with a sense of mindfulness that keeps you in the present moment.
As humans, when any of us are on the wrong course, or are making mistakes – we know it. There is an internal system alive within each of us. It includes all the things that we think we should be doing, want to do, desire to do, need to do etc. – yet make the excuses to just not to. You are either too busy, too tired, don’t have enough money or don’t know how – so you don’t. The way to solve this problem is to start paying attention to your conscious. Pay attention to how you feel after you talk to your children. Try to treat them as you wish to be treated. Take time out of your day to truly be with them, not just in body – but in mind and heart as well. When you are about to say, “Wait a minute,” or “I will do it later,” drop what you are doing and BE with your children. This is something they will remember you by and pass on to their own families.
If you think your children don’t care, that they understand your career or the reason you are away from them so much of the time….they don’t! They are just children. Sure, they get used to it and adjust, but at the same time, they will always remember that mom or dad was simply too busy trying to create a life rather than live one in the moment.
And still, no matter what you do, your children will not remember you as the perfect parent. However, if you make every stride to be there for them and to truly connect with them – they will remember you for all that you truly were. Kids understand that mom and dad love them, but that doesn’t mean that they all feel that love. And least not in the way that you want them to.
Right now, ask yourself, how will my children remember me?
And from there, you can begin working to create memories that resemble the kind of parent you want to be for your kids right now. It will be these memories – 40 years from now, that will have your children thinking of you and feeling warm inside and truly grateful that they had a parent just like you.