“Our lives are remembered by the gifts we leave our children,” Mr. Whitmore says in the Disney movie Atlantis.
I’m not sure how you’ve spent your summer, but this has been a busy one for us. One that included several trips to places as a family without work, e-mail, or the computer. Among those things that we secured are memories, or gifts that the children will have forever. ‘Our children’ are our legacy, that makes grandparenting grand, and parenting noble. And no amount of hype or politicizing can change that. ‘Our children,’ can be lost in a moment by an undertow, a shark bite, or an SUV flipover.
Some time ago, a dear friend of mine, Ranette’s husband Rob, said these words “If it can be bought, then it’s replaceable.” He told his hurried, worried and stressed wife, whose arms were filled with things she’d collected fearing they would not have a home to come home to after a hurricane. He’d told her to only take the things that were irreplaceable, as she was given the responsibility of deciding what had to be left behind. Children already in the car, Ranette looked at her husband, practically in tears, “What’s irreplaceable?” Think about it. If it can be bought? Yet much of our lives are in the pursuit of those things we can buy, not the things we already have.
Many times, life forces us to decide what’s replaceable. And when we are forced to deal with that reckoning, in those moments we tend to reflect over the “shoulda, woulda, couldas.” The times we should have allowed our children to take a moment longer in our room to say good night. The times we would have told our spouses how much they’ve meant to us over the years, if we’d only known that would be the last morning we would see them. The times we could have taken the time to pick up the phone and call our mom or dad, or a friend we’ve not seen or heard from in sometime, and now never can.
Our kids don’t owe us anything, yet sometimes we think they do. We, fathers are responsible for so much, but so often we are neglected by society, our families, and even each other. Now is the time to rise to the occasion. Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist indicated: `The supreme test of any civilization is whether it can teach its men to become good fathers.’ Imagine you not being there? Imagine your kids with you not there? Perhaps the thought is all it takes to wake you up, but wake up. Our children need us, despite what rumors, studies, or the liberal groups say. Dads are responsible for our own households, and the gifts we leave our children.
Myself? Recently our family added to the inventory of SUVs that have flipped over. As that scenario unfolded, much of my life flashed as I heard my family scream and cry. There have been some families who were not as blessed. There were others who were as fortunate, and did nothing to compensate for their past. My feelings and beliefs were reinforced in the knowledge that God was not finished with me as a dad. My role is to steer them as best I can, and if a tire blows, then life still continues for those who believe. It’s that belief we must give each other, our wives and our kids.
So what have I done differently? I’ve tried to make special moments for each member of my family. I’ve tried to make sure they understand the value of life, and understand that they too have a mission in life. I’ve tried to listen more, and appreciate the beauty of noise, silence, and laughter. We must laugh, hug, and encourage one another more. By sharing these more, we leave more gifts with our kids.
So try this: Put a list on your refrigerator and ask each family member to put something on it that doesn’t cost anything, but they would like dad to do with them before summer is over. Put a jar with your name on it somewhere obvious and put a few suggestions in it that would make dad happy. And remember: “Pay it Forward!”