Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What do we leave behind us?

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.)


The braid IMG_1092


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 ?


Sarah said...

i love your short hair!

gosh that is so hard for me to think about at piper's age. i do think about what kind of example i set for the sort of person she will be but i have such a hard time envisioning more than 6 months into her future without my heart breaking lately i can't even think in terms of what she might remember of me. it is definitely worth thinking about, i should, but can i have a few more years?

DrSavta said...

I am enormously proud of all of my children and sometimes wonder whether I was just very very lucky or whether I had some hand in helping them become who they are. When you wrote about your donor card and you contribution of hair, I thought about having taken my kids with me to the science museum in Boston when I gave blood. I wanted them to see that it wasn't painful or frightening and to understand that helping others was a good thing. I do wonder what I did that helped form their attitudes and values. And now I wonder what influence I have on my grandchildren.

Sara said...

I want Eggbert to remember that I love her completely and unconditionally.

I want her to know that I believe in kindness, laughter, and doing the best that you can.

I want her to know that I think that it's better to do the right thing than to be popular, and that I don't think that we should ever be particularly impressed with ourselves for what we have or what we accomplish--there's always someone who has more, or is better, stronger, or faster. I want her to know that I think that life is about the journey, not the destination. I want her to know that I value all of the cultures that gave rise to her. I want her to know that I really try to understand other people's perspectives, even if sometimes I fail. I want her to know that I am enormously grateful for all of the incredible good fortune that has come into my life.

I want her to remember that I never let the fact that I have a not-great voice and am hopelessly uncoordinated stop me from singing and dancing. I hope that she will remember me as someone who was kind.

Anonymous said...

I often wonder the same thing for my kids, I'll have to wait till they're older to find out!

Hair looks superb short, so pretty :)

Geohde said...

I am actually often quite scared of stuffing up raising my children. It's the biggest job I'll ever do and I don't get a redo.

All of that aside, I love the short hair.


Anonymous said...

this post made me tear up.

I want my children to remember their mom being around more- but it is so very hard because I work full time and am the sole bread-winner.

I want my kids to remember the quality, and not the quantitiy of the time we do have together

Bea said...

What a cool new cut? That was recent, right?

This is a great post, so thought-provoking. I think a lot of what you've identified resonates with me - the music, the values, the not knowing things but finding out... the making of life as meaningful, I liked that bit especially. I will have to think further on this.