Have you ever heard someone ask that question? Or, maybe you’ve said it yourself in a different way. “What are we leaving the kids?” Or perhaps thought about it and not mentioned it to anyone because you didn’t want to go there?
I know it’s crass but it does get asked. It could be old friends who share all their secrets or simply idle curiosity among friends. (Too much wine can lead to this type of discussion.) The question gets asked and the thought is always how much MONEY are you leaving the kids.
I have a question. How often have you sat down and thought about what you are leaving your children in a non-monetary sense?
I’ll tell you right up front what our parents left us from a money perspective. When all was said and done, my two brothers and I got $379 each, a suitcase full of photos and documents, a foot stool, and no debts to take care of. What more could we ask for?
Let me be clear, as good as our parents were, this was no “Leave it to Beaver” household. You may need to Google that one.
Our parents had their faults and our lives were interrupted by illness, accidents, lack of money and many other things that a lot of families experience.
However, we neither lacked food on the table nor love (most of time). You may want to check out my post “Most of the Time…” http://ow.ly/jatYo to understand why I put that phrase in parentheses.
I now find it interesting that things that were very difficult at the time for my brothers and me don’t seem so difficult now. We can now look back and sometimes laugh.
I’ve found that as I get older, the bad times are gathering dust in the closet and only come out when I invite them. The good times are always sitting in the middle of room, clean and waiting to be used again.
So, besides $379 here’s what else I think they left me
- They left me with some incredible memories. Road trips when I was growing up. When I was old enough to share the driving with Dad, he’d do the daylight driving. I liked driving at night and he didn’t. I’d do the night shift while he slept propped against the passenger side window getting Brylcreem (look that one up kids) on the window. Mom had the first class bed, aka, the back seat, all to herself. Christmases and holidays with my brothers, sisters in law, nieces and nephew. Saturday and Sunday morning coffee with friends. Our door was always open, the coffee was always on, and the ashtrays were always full. Sometimes the morning coffee would lead to people staying for lunch with more talk, laughs and cigarettes. I’ve never smoked but I think I got my share of tobacco by growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.
- They left me with an understanding of right and wrong. You did right and you were rewarded. You did wrong and it was a learning experience that sometimes had a punishment associated with it. Punishment such as losing the car for two weeks because you blew your curfew by two hours. When you need a car to see your girlfriend because she lives miles away that one really hurt. We were living in the town site at the time so being grounded meant walking to work. Oh the shame if you were seen by your friends and you were walking instead of driving. You might as well wear a cone of shame.
- They left me with an understanding that they cared about my well being even if it didn’t seem so at the time. If you were late getting home and hadn’t called, you were assured of a few things. First, Mom would be in bed wide awake awaiting your return. Second, Dad would be sound asleep. After all, why stay awake when Mom was already awake? Third, if you were really late, you’d hear Mom say to Dad, “Bud, your son is home.” Fourth, you’d hear Dad say, “What time is it?” Whereupon you sheepishly give him the time knowing bloody well that he’d already looked at the clock. You may then hear “It won’t be X time tomorrow night. We’ll talk in the morning.” There were two things that were assured from this exchange. First, they were now going to go to sleep. Two, you weren’t, because you now lay awake wondering what your punishment might be.
- They left me with an understanding that you need to respect other people. By learning respect “my elders”, I also by default learned to respect other people. (OK, some people don’t deserve a lot of respect but you at least have to let them prove they are true dirt bags before judging them.)
- They taught me manners. We may have grown up in the bush but we knew “please” and “thank you”. I stood up when a woman came to the dinner table to take her seat. I opened doors for my elders and for women. (Chauvinistic I know but I still do it.) We asked for permission to do things if we were visiting someone. Such as asking permission to get a glass from the cupboard for some water.
- They taught me that both achievements and failures need to be acknowledged. They offered praise when praise was due and guidance when it was needed. I feel sorry for people who have never been allowed to fail a course, graduated without the ability to read and comprehend, and feel that good things will come their way without having to work for them. Without failure, how do you understand success?
- Finally, they gave me two fantastic brothers. Not much to add here.
So, when the time comes to ask or you’re asked “What are you leaving the kids?” I’d like you to think about that for a minute before replying.