As I sit in my little kids’ room waiting for them to fall asleep, I sometimes wonder what they’ll remember of me when they’re older. Will they remember me sitting in their room, singing to them, often for a whole hour, with them setting up their own ‘playlists’? The songs I sang? Will they remember how I matched their clothes and set up outfits in the drawers so it would be easy to dress them in the morning? Will they remember the silly voices I make for them when I read them stories? Or how I we play a game we call, “hug me but don’t make me fall”? And then I think what my parents have given me and what I remember of my grandparents… and what of all that is really important.
I’ve even come to some conclusions about what is important to me… I guess I could sum it up as two things:
Values and devotion. I know what things my grandparents valued and to what things they devoted their lives – (two obvious examples are Judaism and education).
Interests and talents. I know my maternal grandfather was interested in photography, he wrote and sang beautifully… My maternal grandmother knitted fabulously (she could copy anything she saw in a store) and had an ability to distinguish more colors than the average person. My paternal grandfather was incredibly organized and read a lot… He also translated quite a few poems (both ways, I believe – from Hebrew to English and English to Hebrew). My paternal grandmother – hmmm… I don’t really know that much about her, even though I was 6-1/2 when she died. Time to ask my dad…
One of my aunts loves movies, is a talented artist and likes dinosaurs (we have a whole collection of stuffed dinosaurs :-)). My other aunt died when she was just 16, but I know she doodled in her notebooks and I think we have a lot in common…
With parents, I think it becomes even more specific, beyond the things I wrote about above, it’s also what type of books and music they like, specific things they do or have done, how they like to spend their time, expressions they use, places they visit and even physical objects that they are particularly fond of… and habits, quirks… I’m sure a lot of other things too.
These thoughts have made me even more aware of the things I want to emphasize to my children. So, Hadas knows that I have an organ donor card that I carry in my wallet and that I signed up to the bone marrow registry. All of them know that I donated my hair to children with cancer. (It was fun, highly recommended – pics below.)
I spend time talking to the kids about things that are important to me, explaining my belief and giving them examples of the way I interpret things (e.g., despite the fact that I don’t drive on the Sabbath, when one of the kids was in bad emotional shape at their dad’s house, I felt that the right thing to do was to drive to them right away). I get silly with the kids and dance with them to Bryan Adams… and they’ve seen me eat peanut butter with a spoon (like my mother used to :-)) Sometimes Hadas (who goes to a boarding school in Jerusalem) calls me and tells me she heard a song I like on the radio (yes, she still knows what a radio is). And Matan laughs at me when I’m not sure about a word and I pull out the dictionary. Lilach can always catch me when I’m being ridiculous (often) and trying to trick them. Abigail and Nomi know that when I take them out of the tub, I wrap them up in a towel and tell them to be careful not to fall and then I laugh with them that they “fell into my arms” as I carry them to the other room. Yirmi knows that I sing silly songs to him all day long… (oh yes, I do.)
I believe that making our lives meaningful to us is what makes them meaningful to our children (and then to their children). This also gives them the message that they should work to make their lives meaningful… and maybe the title of this post is misleading, because it isn’t just what we leave behind when we die, it’s what our children and grandchildren (and maybe even generations beyond that) have with them throughout their lives.
What do you think is important? What do you want to give your children ?