What Am I Passing On to My Kids: A Gift or Baggage?
What specific character traits, positive or negative, did you learn from your mother? What about your father? How are you most like your grandmother or grandfather? Answering these questions will show you what traits you received from previous generations. All of us, whether we want it or not, have received a gift from our progenitors. These gifts can turn into a beautiful heritage or into useless, heavy, and burdensome baggage. In the same way, we also pass down gifts or baggage to our own children. How willing are we to sacrifice something today for the benefit of our children’s tomorrow? The answer to this question will determine what exactly we are going to be passing on to them – a gift or a burdensome baggage.
Whether we want to admit it or not, children are not as resilient as we want them to be when coping with complicated problems passed down to them by the adults in their lives. They will forever carry scars from emotional wounds received. The scars left behind are there to remind them of the lasting effects of the decisions taken by their parents. In her book, based on her 25 year study of divorce children, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, Judith Wallerstein writes about how children are not that resilient as we once thought and how divorce leaves them struggling for a lifetime.
But divorce is only one of the decisions we make today that may end up leaving our children carrying the baggage of the previous generation. There are infinite decisions we make daily that over time also impact our children’s future and their view of the world.
Let’s take, for example, the parent that always gives in to the child that makes up excuses for not completing his homework and blames his teachers for his academic failures. What do you think those decision would have on that child’s educational goals or his ability to be a productive and successful student? I think after a short while that parent would discover that their child is becoming lazy, irresponsible, and is developing a negative attitude or view of the world. But even after the parent has observed some of the negative implications of their decisions, they continue to allow their child to engage in the blame game and start demanding less on their report cards because after all, blaming a teacher is easier than dealing with the underlying character flaws developing in that child. The other way requires tough choices and hard work on the part of the parent and the child.
We seek to do what feels good to us. We have an incredible capacity for justifying our actions and a rebellious attitude towards those who criticize our choices. When someone raises a concern, we write them off as meddling busybodies that have no business telling us what to do. If, however, we want to pass down the gift of productivity, or honesty or perseverance, or whatever other gift we want to pass down to our children, we must make some changes. Those changes can only be implemented if we become mindful of all those minute-by-minute decisions we make in regards to our children that one day will end up being a gift or baggage.
Our easy fixes and enabling actions may end up limiting our children for the rest of their lives. So let’s try to decrease the times we take the easy way out. I’m not suggesting that we will always be the super hero parents that never give in or make mistakes. But I am encouraging you to be the parent that knows that sacrifices do count. Let’s be generous as we pass down a legacy to our kids that they can be proud of. But let’s not be fooled into thinking that passing down that legacy will be easy. That kind of generosity many times means self-denial and self-correction. It means that we have to set aside what we want or put on hold the pursuit of some of our desires for the well-being of our little ones. I don’t think we will regret having made those temporary sacrifices for their well-being.
When someone asks our children, where did you learn to be so courageous? Let the answer be: “My mom is the most courageous woman I know”. Or if someone asks them: Who taught you to have such good work habits? Let the answer be: “My dad never complained about his job and always told me how lucky I was that I could get a great education”. Passing down good character traits to our children is the best way to share our legacy with the entire world. Let’s not load our little ones down with baggage. Instead, let’s be intentional in filling their arms with bountiful gifts that will extend to a thousand generations.