When we think of ourselves as compared to our parents, often times we make jokes or say “I am nothing like my fathermother”. I am sure my kids would look at me in horror if I told them today that they were going to be just like me someday. They would do this based on what they see as the outward parts of me, my clothes, my music, the movies I like and the fact that I wear black socks with shorts when I grill in the summertime (because I can, I have earned the right). But the reality here is that they will become a lot like me when they too are parents, whether intentionally or not, and I need to be aware of that in everything I do. They are my legacy.
My father was absent during the majority of my childhood. He left my mother when I was two and had very little contact with me after that. It was, and is, a very difficult thing for me. I know that he made some attempts early on to contact me and to spend time with me. My mother protected me from the situation. And, right before his death, in 2004, he attempted to reach out to me. I have long since forgiven him for whatever things were left in my heart and the pain that they caused.
Growing up I had no shortage of fatherly figures. I grew up with an amazing grandfather and two wonderful, albeit odd, uncles. And, you know what? I am a lot like them.
So now, in writing about life, love, marriage, parenting and everything else that seems important in our lives, my wife and I decided to write about how we emulate that which we come to know. Whether directly or indirectly, everything I do is soaked up by the three little sponges that live in my house. Most of the time that is a good thing… most of the time.
The legacy of parenthood does not look all that glamorous to the outsider. I spend time telling my kids to get out of bed, clean their rooms, pick up their toys that I have just stepped on, come inside, go outside, wash their hands, brush their teeth and do their homework. These are the same things that I was told as a child, and sometimes I find myself emulating what I remember. But, there is so much more here that I am only now starting to realize. My children are a lot like me, and it is amazing.
I find myself running through all of the things I can remember, situations, correctional conversations, the way they see my wife and I interact, just to see if I can assemble the “me” that they see. I encourage every parent to think along these lines at least once in a while. Think about how you look in various situations to your child. Remember that they will model their parenting directly after what they see in you. They will listen to your words, but they will also see your actions and reactions.
I am fairly certain that I am a good father and that having my children emulate me as parents when they are older is not going to be a bad thing. I also know that there is a delicate balance here, one that I will spend a lifetime trying to master.
So, at the end of the day, am I just like my Dad? Probably not. But I am just like the parental figures that raised me, without a doubt. And looking back, I am proud to wear the black socks, despite the groans of my teenage daughter. And I know, someday, my boys will wear black socks and shorts and smile when they think about their Dad standing in front of the grill. These are the metaphors for the legacy that I will leave, and the understanding that my kids are always watching me. Your kids are watching you too. What legacy will you leave?