Many years ago I received a book from my in-laws as a present for Mother’s day. It was a diary of sorts for me to record my “life story”. It asked me questions about my childhood, about my early work history, about my marriage, about having children, my likes and dislikes and just general information about me. It was entitled A Mother’s Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words. It was a beautiful diary and one that I promised myself I would fill out so my children would truly know me later down the road.
I recently came across the book, partially filled out, and thumbed through it. I smiled at some of the memories recorded there and felt sad at others. Still, as I put down the book I wondered if that was truly my entire legacy… just a bunch of facts about me. The thought stayed with me until I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
The more I thought about it the more I realized that my legacy to my children was not the bits and pieces that were recorded in the diary. My legacy was so much more. What my children would remember about me was not what elementary school I went to when I was a child nor was it that my first job was at McDonald’s. No, my children would remember me for the everyday things I said and did. They would think back to our days together- homeschooling, cooking, running errands, and playing at the park. What also I realized was that they would think not only of the good things, but they would remember the bad as well. Each and every action I make will become a part of my “legacy”.
The mere thought of this stopped me in my tracks. In the last few months I’ve been tired, worn down, cranky, upset over how others have treated me and our family, and perhaps not near as loving as I should be. I have let others in particular get to me and break my spirit. I allowed them to take the smile from my face and the joy from my heart. To think that this is part of my legacy for my children, well, it truly upset me. I should be doing better. I should be providing my children with a legacy that they will love to share. I began to think “what can I change and how can I do better?”
Our Catholic faith specifically tells us that as parents we are the first educators for our children. We are called to teach our children in many ways but most importantly through spiritual and moral education. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the \”material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.\”31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them….
The Church is telling me just what my legacy for my children should be. My legacy is not what I have written in the book I have sitting beside my bed, but it is in the actions and lessons I have both modeled and taught my children. My legacy should be showing my children a deep love of God, respect for others, kindness, humility, honor, mercy, forgiveness, and patience. It should be shown in the loving care I provide for my family, in the tenderness in which I approach my husband and children, and how I guard our family from the pain that the outside world is so eager to thrust upon us. If I want my children to remember me in this manner then it is up to me to make sure that happens. I have to tune out the rest of the world and focus on the ones whom God has chosen to entrust to my care. I have to actively choose to get rest so I’m not so tired, to change my attitude so I am not cranky, and to realize that others who have put us down are not the ones that matter and I have to focus on the positives in our lives, especially when there are so many to focus on!
When my children think back to their childhood I want them to remember me with a smile on my face, with a heart full of joy, and a love so strong that we could get through any circumstance together. I want them to remember that I helped others, showed respect and kindness, but that I also put them at the front of what was important in my life. I want my legacy to be one of faith, hope, and love. If I can leave them with this legacy then I feel like I have truly left them something valuable and lasting.
What do you want your legacy to be?
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