Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Inheritance

Have you ever heard the saying "Do as I say, not as I do"? I heard it often from my Dad growing up. I was the oldest of two girls, growing up in an Italian Catholic family where kids were to be seen and not heard. Kids were to respect their parents, and all other adults for that matter. We didn't dare "talk back" for fear we'd get a swift back hand across the kisser. You did as you were told, and you did it at the moment you were told to do it. There was no "hold on a sec" or "let me finish this level first" or "why do I have to do that???" stuff. Oh no, no way. We went to church on Sundays and to catechism on Wednesdays. Dad worked and was the "man of the house". Mom stayed home and handled all the domestic and family duties. There were wooden spoons involved on occasion, sometimes worse. There was a lot of yelling on Dad's part, because that's what his Dad did, and his Dad before him. He knew it was his job to keep us in line and he did it with fear because that's what he thought dad's do.

Mom and Dad were quite different in many ways. Dad grew up in New York. He had tattoos, smoked, drank and was basically lucky that he lived past his teenage years. Dad had a very short temper. Mom NEVER smoked, would NEVER get a tattoo, barely ever drank (besides wine at dinner, because in Italian families that doesn't count), and wouldn't hurt a fly. When Dad was mad you were in for it. When Mom was mad, you started to giggle at her "mad mom" tone of voice and she ended up giggling too. Even with these distinct differences, there were some traits that they shared. And these were long held beliefs and ways of living that have been passed down for generations. Ideals and ways of being that were never questioned, that were part of who they were, part of who WE were. A legacy of traditions that were inherited over countless generations.

There is part of that way of living that is very cool, and that I even miss a little bit. The big family dinners on Sunday filled with homemade manicotti and meatballs, chianti and ricotta cheese cake, We were (are) so loud! Everyone talking over each other, and all at the same time. The little mystic remedies and prayers that Grandma conjured up to take care of ring worm (I remember that had something to do with a fig) or headaches, that had been passed down from her mother and would hopefully be passed down to me one day. The closeness, the loyalty,the affection and love (LOTS of hugs and kisses), the comfort of a family all on the same page. You never had to wonder if you were loved in our family.

There is also part of living that way that could never work for me now. There was no questions aloud. There was no thinking or talking about a different way. This is the way things are done, period, end of discussion (before one even started). There was no crying. That was pointless, and if you are crying "for no reason" then someone was going to "give you something to cry about". You held back. You held back your tears if you needed to cry. You held back your opinions if they were different. You didn't cause waves, because waves weren't good. Kind of the whole walking on eggshells thing.

This little story isn't anything extraordinary. We all grew up with families that had "stuff", both endearing and a little disturbing. No one had perfect parents. Some people grew up suffering abuse, some people grew up in seemingly perfect households with a family that kept their skeletons safely tucked away in the closet. We all go into our adult years with bumps and bruises from childhood. How else would we know how WE want to do it, to do life? How else would we have some idea what kind of parents we want (or don't want) to be? And now we are the parents. We are living out loud, in front of our kids. they are watching and listening to ALL of it. I don't even have to ask where my boys learned to roll their eyes or talk with sass. They are observing the way we interact, the way we communicate. How we handle stress, how we embrace joy. Do we follow our dreams? Do we ask questions? Are we patient? Do we encourage them to be themselves no matter what or do we try to stifle them or shove them in a box? Do we DO as we say or are we all talk? Do we treat people the way we tell them they should treat people? Are we kind? Are we assertive? Are we compassionate? Are we honest? Aahhhhhh!!!

Sometimes it can feel like A LOT, if you let it. If you worry and stress over how they are going to turn out. If you put all of the responsibility of who they are, and the people they will grow to be, on your own shoulders. As parents we try so hard. We agonize over decisions. We try to protect them from pain at every corner, We try to push them just enough but not too much. And here's what I think we should do. We live the best way we can. We live from our hearts, from our souls. We let that guide us. These little people learn life by watching us live it. Much much more than what we say. Let go of the inheritance that was passed down. Appreciate what it was, and love the people who gave it to you. Use what you can from it, and trash the rest. There is nothing to be resentful about. There is nothing that you need to carry with you that does not add to your quality of life. There are no victims, or grudges to be held. Now is now and then was then. If we want our kids to live a life of joy, we need to choose joy. If we want our kids to tap into their creativity and discover their gifts, we need to slow down and tap into ours. We need to live out loud. Be honest and transparent. Embrace what is with gratitude and hopeful hearts. The inheritance we leave is the life we choose to live. It's always a choice.

Choose LOVE.
Choose JOY.
Choose FAITH.
Choose WONDER.
Choose GRATITUDE.

Show our babies how to live life by living yours with purpose and intention <3

P.S. While living this life out loud, knowing my kids are watching, I take time to meditate. I encourage the boys to do it if they want to but don't force them. They surprised me with this precious moment at the beach last week. It made my heart happy.
















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