What Will Your Kids Remember?

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I was catching up on podcasts during my recent work travel. If I haven’t mentioned it before, let me mention it now, I am IN LOVE with Armchair Expert. So much.

If you listen to the show, you know that Dax’s interviews are long, so it takes a certain setting for me to be able to finish one from start to finish in a single sitting. Cue a long plane ride.

I downloaded his interview with Gwyneth Paltrow and was blown away. Regardless of what you think about her, there were so many insightful comments about life, marriage, and parenting that I found myself thinking about their conversation long after it had ended.

What struck me most was how much respect and admiration they both have for their parents. Dax said something to the effect of he loves his Mom so much, he just can’t get enough of her and that his life will feel directionless when she passes. And Gwyneth talked about her father adoringly, which you probably already knew because their close bond has been well known. But she also talked about her mother and the pride and awe she felt for her as a young girl when she would watch her mother in her element as an actress.

It made me want to make sure that my kids talk about me someday in the same way that Dax and Gwyneth talked about their mothers.

How to Gain Perspective

One of my favorite exercises to use with clients who need a heavy dose of perspective, is to ask them to picture their little baby as a young adult. You can try the same exercise right now, if you’d like.

Picture a scenario where your grown child might be sharing about their childhood, the house in which they were raised, the values or priorities they learned from you.

Perhaps they’re in college and have met a new friend. Perhaps they’re on a first or second date with someone they really like, and they’re getting to know each other.

What does your “baby” say about you? What do they remember about how you spent your time? What were you really into? What did you value? And probably most importantly, how did you make them feel?

Plenty of Time

If your kids are young, you probably think the way I do, and that’s that you have plenty of time. Time to show them who you really are. Time to show them what else you love (besides them) and what you are good at. Time to show them your values and your priorities. Time to show them that you know how to spend your time!

But what I’ve come to realize lately is:

  • that these years are going to fly by quickly,

  • that habits, especially when it comes to how I spend my time and doing things that I love, take a while to really solidify and I need to start practicing this stuff now, and

  • that my kids are sponges and even though they’re young, they see everything.

What I Want Them to Remember

For me, when I do this exercise, I almost always come back to a few things:

  • I want my kids to remember how much I love music, reading, and other hobbies.

  • I want my kids to remember how much I love their dad and how I show and tell him that every day.

  • I want my kids to remember how I took time for myself - continuing with hobbies, taking care of my body and my mental health, relaxing, and being with friends.

  • I want my kids to remember how grateful and appreciative I am for my life. That it has its challenges but that it’s an amazing gift.

  • I want my kids to remember how I made them feel - loved, accepted, appreciated and valued.

I would encourage you to also get down into creating specific memories. The more detail the better.

For example, for my own mother, I remember how much she loved books. I specifically remember finding her hiding out in the laundry room where instead of folding the clothes from the dryer, she was hunched over a book just reading “a few more pages”. I LOVE that memory.

It’s Emotional AND It’s Necessary

Thinking about the future can be emotional. It is for me. I had tears in my eyes just writing about what I want my own kids to remember. Partly because it’s sad to think of them as no longer my little babies. But also because I know I’m falling short of the big picture and I want to change that.

I certainly don’t expect you to do this exercise weekly. It would be too draining. I know I couldn’t handle it. But I do think doing it every once in awhile is helpful. It puts the mundane day-to-day experiences into perspective and can be a wake-up call that if you’re not making time for things that you love, for values and priorities that you want to demonstrate to your kids, you need to start.

If you need help looking at your schedule and finding ways to do more of what you want your kids to remember about you, let me know. Finding time in an already full schedule is my superpower. This exercise, this vision is important. Start with one thing today that can build into a memory for your kids.