What We Leave Behind

Carla: Last night my husband and I, along with my parents, saw Dave Brubeck in concert. The man is 88 years old and is arguably the greatest jazz musician alive. As I sat there with my parents, I thought about the incredible gift they have given me in instilling a love and appreciation for this legendary artist.

My parents are big jazz fans and we always had jazz music playing in the house. Every chance they had to see one of their favorites in concert, they bought tickets for all of us and we went. Mind you, I grew up in a small town and attending these concerts usually involved a 2-hour drive and often an overnight stay. Even when I was in high school, my parents would haul me along to shows by greats like Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie and a much younger Dave Brubeck. I was often the only child in an audience of adults and I loved it. I loved the time with my parents, I loved the music, and I loved being in the presence of these great performers.

Last night, listening to music I’ve known for most of my life, sitting with the people who taught me to love it, got me thinking about the gifts I am giving my children. I wonder what treasures I am passing on to them. I don’t just mean the big-picture things like faith and love. I mean these little things that are part of our lives that the kids might not even notice right now but will thank us for one day. I wonder how they’ll fill in this blank: “My parents taught me to appreciate ______”

Maybe it will be “the woods.” My sweet husband was not outdoorsy when we met, but he has discovered a love for camping and has made camping with our kids a priority. So every summer, we hit the road at least twice to sleep on the ground and eat food with dirt in it. Our hope is not that our kids become expert campers, but that they learn to see the beauty of creation, that they find the same peace and contentment in the woods that we do.

Maybe it will be “community.” We have people in our house all the time. Sometimes they live here, sometimes they are here for dinner, sometimes they just pop in when they are out walking their dogs. Regardless of why they come or how long they stay, our friends–and their friends and so on and so on–make our lives better. We hope our kids pick up on the beauty of community, the joys and challenges that come from truly sharing life with other people.

Of course it’s just as likely it will be “show tunes.”

So much of what I learned from my parents happened simply because they included me in what they were interested in–theater, music, good food, books, Monty Python. They weren’t intentionally trying to teach me anything, just being themselves and inviting me into their lives.

Caryn: Oh, I love this topic (show tunes, the woods, yes!!). And I must tell this story. The other day I was looking through my son’s “take home folder” and sifting through his worksheets, etc. and I came across his Bible quiz (he goes to a Christian school, remember. No, our public schools don’t teach Bible here). Here was the question:

Jonah disobeyed God. Draw a picture or write about what happened to Jonah when he disobeyed.

My son’s answer: He got slurped up by a big fish.

SLURPED! I nearly squealed. My son—who is an incredible artist, so I’m surprised that he didn’t draw a picture—chose the word “slurped.” His word-loving teacher wrote “interesting word choice!” and put a smiley face next to it.

Darn tootin’ (in words my mom passed down to me) it’s an interesting word choice! But beyond that, I felt like such a roaring (another passed on word) success as a mom because one thing I’ve tried to pass on is a love of words. In English. In Spanish. Big ones. Little ones. Real ones. Made up ones. And here my son writes that Jonah got slurped. I’m still smiling.

Now, who knows what my son will do in life. But if he does it with wise word choices, I’m happy.

I think that’s what makes families so cool—that God plunks these kids into our lives and it’s our job to pass things on. Maybe they’ll grow up sharing our loves—our family’s love of debating issues, questioning, of politics and reading, of God, of animals—or maybe they’ll grow up rejecting some of it. But just that they’ve been exposed to our loves and loved during the “exposing” is so awesome. It’s sort of a branding for families. What makes us special, unique.

Which brings me back to slurped. Note: On that same quiz, my son was also able to list two prophets God used to speak to Israel, which king was 7 when he was crowned and which one was told to destroy Ahab’s family and the Baals. But I’m less impressed. Anyone can know that (except I didn’t). But word choice is an art. Maybe even a family thing.

Carla: I love me a good word choice.

I was talking about this with my husband today and he thinks our kids are picking up goofiness from us. Considering I met him when he was playing the Church Lady in a skit, the chances are pretty good they will indeed learn a little bit about goofiness.

So Revs, how do you think your kids will answer the question: “My parents taught me to appreciate ______”?


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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cindy on November 4, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I’m hoping that my children will pick up the idea of family. Not necessarily the ones they see on TV, but an in-the-trenches, committed-in-spite-of-it-all, messy, imperfect, loving, loud, non-traditional-is-OK family. We’ve gone through really, really hard times as a family, but we go through them. We don’t give up, no matter how much we may want to. We don’t hide under our beds whimpering (most of the time). Because we’re a family. Called together by God. From different places, each with baggage, and we’re a family because God called us into His family. Thanks for a good topic.

    Reply

  2. Posted by lisa boylan on November 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Unfortunately, the propensity to weigh a few extra pounds and probably the H1N1 virus ( we think I have it now).
    For the fortunate part, I hope we can pass on who Jesus is. His love, His compassion, His forgiveness, His gentleness and His friendship.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Bookgirl on November 4, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Bookgirl is weighing in, for the first time in a long time. I’m a single woman without kids, but this has me thinking a lot. What kind of auntie do I want to be? What do I want my sweet nieces to remember about me? What about the kids I work with in children’s ministry?

    I want them to love Jesus and life. I want them to love other people and serve and be generous. I want them to love books and crafts and nature walks and pretty leaves and bike rides.

    On a completely unrelated note: I first stepped into the waters of this blog as a guest poster, a single woman without kids, and my post started quite the uproar. Now I’m dating a great guy and we’re both seeking God as we get to know each other and have a lot of fun, too. But it’s funny how much “advice” there is out there in church bookstore land that is just completely out of touch with reality. I would imagine that there’s a lot of that in momland, too. And because I’m in my late 30s and still single, I don’t fit the Evangelical church “script.” Maybe shredding the script will be part of the legacy I leave to my dear nieces.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Robyn on November 5, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Reading. For sure. Both my husband and I are avid readers and my 3-year-old positively devours books. She loves both “reading” them to herself and having them read to her. She’ll show up with an armful of 10-12 books and plop herself in the middle of the floor and enjoy herself for… a long time. One of us has read to her every day since her birth, and we will do the same for Sprout after he is born.

    Also, food. We like to eat good food, and we like to cook it. Our kids will learn to cook. Rylie already demands to help every night. By the time I was 8 or 9, I could cook dinner for the whole family by myself, and I loved being in the kitchen. I hope my kids learn my love of cooking and appreciate good food.

    And, I hope, each other. Rylie already talks to her brother, holding entire conversations with my belly. I am hoping that they will be friends, not just siblings. I know I can’t force that or make it happen, but I pray for it and will encourage it.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Steve B. on November 6, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Goofiness, indeed! Our family went to the Dells last spring and our daughter took all of her hard-earned arcade tickets to the counter where she could cash them in for various prizes (junk). After very careful consideration, she handed over her tickets and asked for the following two items: a Whoopie cushion and Billy Bob teeth. I have to admit, I got a little tear in my eye. I’m not sure I have ever been so proud as a parent. Fortunately, my wife is not a complete goofball, so there is some balance. Our daughter loves slapstick comedy, fishing, 80’s music, and dancing The Robot. But she also loves fashion, sushi, shopping, and tea parties. Most importantly, she loves Jesus; sometimes in spite of her parents’ examples rather than because of them.

    Reply

  6. Reading
    Homemade pie
    a WIDE variety of music

    Reply

  7. I hope I’m passing on my love of reading to my kids. Sometimes my kids will ask random questions and I’ll somehow know the answer. They’ll say, “How do you know that?” and I always say, “I read.” Now anytime anyone in our family says “How do you know that?” they’ll pipe in with a slightly sarcastic, “i read!” My daughter seems to appreciate books more than my son at this point, but I think they both see the value in being able to read and gather information.
    I think we’re also teaching our kids the value of hard work, and the value of play. My husband and I really believe in the value of having everyone in the family contribute (read that, do chores). We also try to balance our own work with family time but I try to communicate that work is a gift, the ability to earn a living is a blessing from God. My daughter’s 15 and already has a job–completely her idea. But we also go sailing, play board games, just toss a football in the yard–we like to play together. I think you need both.

    Reply

  8. Posted by April G. on November 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

    We are avid gardners and food lovers. One of the biggest reasons we garden is that we both have very fond memories of gardens from our childhood and want to pass that love on to our children. Both of them have loved food straight from the garden since they first started eating. It gives us such joy to watch them sit down and devour handfulls of fresh peas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, or carrots. (Some of their favorites.) It makes us teary eyed to watch.

    Another one that is important to us is realness. We aren’t about putting up a front. We want to be real, and we want that freedom for our children as well. This includes the spiritual side too. Struggle and joy are intermingled in all parts of life.

    Bookgirl, good point! I realize that the same things I want for my children I strive to offer my niece and nephews and students as well.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Melissa on November 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Right now I’m having fun with this. It will soon be our 2nd adoption anniversary. I am amazed at how many things I am already passing on to my 13-year-old! I never dreamed there would be so many things that she would pick up from me or begin to enjoy. Recently had a couple people say they have even noticed that she is picking up my way of speaking and some mannerisms. Quite adorable and horrifying all at once.

    Reply

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