Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the art of being remembered

yesterday, chach got the dreaded phone call. we again lost an amazing mother to cancer and, once more, we're left reeling. while we knew that she was fighting hard against the disease, we were surprised at how quickly she was taken when she took a turn for the worse. now we are left trying to make sense of it all and looking for any bits of wisdom we can find in the midst of the sorrow.

there is nothing that seems right about a wonderful mother saying goodbye to her two young children. it is a loss that is incomprehensible for mothers and children alike. still, there is something precious about a mother who knows her days will be fewer than she wants with her children and who has and takes the time to leave behind her legacy for her children to remember. regardless of how long we have with our children, we can all learn a lesson from a mother that knew. we can learn the art of being remembered...and remembered well.

every family is different, but here are some ways you can place some lasting images into the minds of your children, whether you have a lifetime with them or not.

get in the picture: how many photos do we have of our children? i know the numbers are countless in our family. how many of those pictures include your face? moms and dads are great at snapping photos and usually pretty poor at jumping into them. make a point of taking pictures with each one of your children. pick your favorites, blow them up, put them on the walls of your house. let your kids see everyday how proud you are to be seen with them. i know i've been guilty of staying out of too many photos. i've worried that putting an 8x10 of myself on the wall will look obnoxious. when i have taken the time and put up a picture of me with any of my kids, the picture always ends up being one of that child's favorites. let your kids see your face with theirs on a regular basis.

make some photo books: these projects do take time, money and energy but there are websites (my favorite is shutterfly.com) to help make the process easier. photos are great on a camera, on a computer, even printed out but there is something about having them organized and produced in a book format. my children will pour over photo books repeatedly. they will read the captions and memorize the events they had forgotten as time had passed. it gives them a sense of who they are, where they belong and where they have come from. take the time and make some for your family.

write things down: this one is difficult to do on a regular basis but it is a really special gift you can give your children. start by writing each child a letter on their birthdays. tell them about the year that has passed, how they have grown, how they have changed your life over the last year. keep these letters in a safe place and decide in advance when you'll give them to your children. we're holding onto ours until the kids are leaving for college. writing words down specifically to each individual child is priceless.

get yourself on video: i think a lot of parents take some sort of video coverage of a baby's first days in the hospital and then somehow manage to eliminate themselves from any other footage. get in there! get your spouse to record you being silly with your kids. film yourself playing "just dance" with your kids on the wii. record your spouse reading a favorite story with all the funny voices. capture the moments of your children learning to ride a bike or use roller blades...just make sure you can see the parent running along behind or holding their hand. someday, your kids will make fun of the clothes you are wearing and your totally out of date hair style but they'll also see pictures of a parent who always had their back.

pass on heirlooms and traditions: my kids know that certain recipes have been passed down from my grandmother. they know sayings that have been my family's favorites. they see certain things in our house that are almost a century old. put that stuff in writing. make a cookbook of all your family recipes. look for old pictures of your family making certain dishes and include those in the book. make a photo book of family memories. scan in old pictures of your grandparents and parents and write down the stories of your family that you know or can find out. my grandmother has filled my life with quilts. i am searching for pictures of my grandmother working on her quilting projects to include with pictures of each child and their own special quilts. too often our ancestors stories get lost as the years pass. we can take those stories and preserve them for generations to come.

teach your kids everything: as much as we would like, our days as parents are not all family game nights and playing tag in the backyard. parenting involves mountains of work. besides teaching your kids about play and reading and writing, take every opportunity in your own work day to teach them the basics of life. when you're doing laundry, teach them how to match up socks and fold dish towels until they're ready to learn more. when you are cooking a recipe, even though it will take twice as long with their "help," get them in there stirring with you. their independence may be a long way off, but one day they'll do something on their own and they'll remember it was you who taught them.

spend time one on one: this one can be hard. i've got four kids in my own house and one more coming soon. still, i am learning more and more the value of individual time with my kids. moms, go on a date night with your sons one at a time. dads, take out your daughters. even if you're eating out at mcdonald's, tell them over and over again how special the occasion is. if your kids are older, spend time reading a book next to them as they read on their own. one on one time doesn't have to be extravagant to be meaningful. just show your kids that you enjoy their company all on their own.

how did we do? do you have other ideas you can share? do you feel inspired to leave a lasting impression? i know we do.