Build And Share Your Legacy Now

legacy

Build and share your legacy now

BY BOB AND JUDITH WRIGHT

With spring break on the way, we may be presented with opportunities to visit or travel with family. There’s no better time to asses our family connections than when we’re spending time together with loved ones, building family traditions.

A friend recently told us about the last springtime road trip she took with her father before he passed away. During the trip he shared anecdotes about growing up she’d never really heard before. She said it was one of the first times she got to hear about who her father really was—his childhood, his experiences as a teenager, and his life as a young man.

Later she used these experiences to write his obituary for the newspaper. While she deeply appreciated this memory of travelling with her father and sharing rich discussions about his life, she wished they’d had those conversations earlier. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could pass on our stories and our genealogy of family traditions now, instead of waiting until the twilight? How do we start building family traditions and strengthening our connections today?

Get the fields ready to plant

DNA and genetic mapping are a big trend these days, with services like Ancestry and 23andMe promoting kits to map you your background. These kits may tell you the ethnic history of your parents and grandparents, your countries of origin, and even your propensity toward certain genetic diseases– but they can’t really capture the legacy of your genealogy. This is more than DNA, birthdates, or death dates.

Our family genealogy also includes patterns in relationships that have been passed down from generation to generation. What where their relationships like? What did the family go through? What personality traits did they have? What were their experiences? What values did they hold?

In the Spring, we start to plant ideas about travel and family get togethers—but let’s also think of whom we want to become in the new season on your own or together with your family and loved ones. Think of the seeds you will plant in your life for the coming year and thereafter.

As you’re thinking of your Spring planting, consider your own past and the genealogy of your family. How can you start building family traditions and spending time together exploring who you are and where you’ve come from? What would you like to know about your family members? How do their personalities, preferences, and experiences play into your own?

Discover the intentions of our ancestors

While we can’t buy a test tube kit or a cheek swab to discover the intentions of our ancestors, we can learn a lot by examining our family history and relationships with living relatives. As we understand our genealogy and the choices of our family more completely, we can create a clearer picture of how we want our lives to be in the future – what seeds we want to plant with our children and grandchildren. Not only does this mean looking at pictures or letters together, but also having those important meaningful conversations whenever possible. ‘What did you like about X and what has the family kept hidden, and why?’ When faced with a piece of your family history, explore the meaning and implications—you may even find letters and books where you can further inquire into the nature of the author.

Call out:  You see, my mother had come from a not-so-great family. She had a needy mother and an abusive father. Throughout the letters she related her desire to avoid becoming like her parents. She discussed the type of parent she would rather become instead.

My father wrote boxes of love letters to my mother. He was a real love-letter kind of guy. He and my mother corresponded back and forth during WWII before and after they married. They would write letters about their future together, and they would discuss what had gone on in their past. Most importantly, they discussed the vision they had for whom they wanted to become.

You see, my mother had come from a not-so-great family. She had a needy mother and an abusive father. Throughout the letters she related her desire to avoid becoming like her parents. She discussed the type of parent she would rather become instead.

Years later, looking back at these treasured letters, it struck me what a gift they truly are. In the letters, I see the areas my mother and father were focused on for their lives—not only the romance and love between them, but what they truly wanted to bring forth in their eventual marriage and parenting, and why. In one particular series of letters, my mother reveals her hesitancy to tell my father that yet again, her mother has attempted suicide. As I review them and share them with Judith, I also have questions I wish I’d asked while they were still with me.

Through these familial artifacts, we learn a great deal about the sacrifices and chosen paths of our parents and how they shaped their parenting style. Why did they choose their profession? What were their visions for parenting?

I’m reminded of a John Adams quote on his vision for his children that he wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail:

“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the art of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts.

I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” 

As we pass on our stories, our hopes, and our vision to the generations, we share the intent of getting to know each other better. At the same time, it’s important we study and explore the legacy passed on to us and pass it forward. This means talking to our adult kids and grandkids and listening to them as well.

Build new family traditions through vacation

legacyNow, you certainly don’t need to go on a road trip to share and get to know each other better, but travel does offer an opportunity to get away and relax. The important key is to make your travel or vacation purposeful. Use it as an opportunity for building family traditions and becoming more connected. Don’t simply spend time together; be intentional and get to know them and yourself even better.

One of our students told us her mom always wants to bring the family together over the holidays, during Spring break and over the Summer. Yet, once they all get together, they never actually do anything to engage with each other. It’s as though her mom is seeking symbolic togetherness in a familiar structure, but she doesn’t want to use the opportunity to really connect with her children. She is matching a one-dimensional picture of a family in her mind.

My fondest memories of family include taking road trips. My father was totally engaged with the countryside as we were driving and strongly encouraged us to stay present and aware of the sights as well. Comic books and toys weren’t allowed, but observation was encouraged.

Any time we get together with our family or loved ones, there’s an opportunity to really build and strengthen our relationships. What if – instead of bringing the family together for a holiday, vacation, or road trip –we went in with the intention of building family traditions, connecting, learning about each other, and really enjoying and discovering each other? Nostalgia alone isn’t really enough purpose to drive a meaningful experience.

My fondest memories of family include taking road trips. My father was totally engaged with the countryside as we were driving and strongly encouraged us to stay present and aware of the sights as well. Comic books and toys weren’t allowed, but observation was encouraged.

Now, while my father loved the discovery of travel, looking back on it, I realize we weren’t as great at discovering each other. At that time, we didn’t really understand how we could use the trip as an opportunity to learn more about each other and our extended family. Still, these childhood vacations sparked a sense of adventure and discovery in me. Today I’m grateful for the opportunities we had to connect as a family, even in a limited way.

About the Authors – Judith and Bob Wrightliving

The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer.Judith Wright and Dr. Bob Wright, are a husband/wife duo and Chicago-based relationship counselors. They are award-winning authors and trainers and have appeared on numerous TV and radio programs including ABC’s 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, the Today Show, the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, and Vanity Fair. They are the co-authors of “The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer.

READ MORE FROM BOB AND JUDITH HERE

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