The loud cackle of a colorful and exotic Amazon-like bird startled me out of my euphoric dream state on what was planned to be a no-alarm morning — like a military bugler pressing his horn against my ears, playing reveille and saying, “Get up, soldier!” I jumped up out of a dead sleep, only to see darkness out the window, giving me permission to nestle back into my thick warm featherbed covers. But alas, once I was awake, my mind was spinning faster than one of those wobbly toy tops we used to get at Christmas when we were kids.
So here I sit, in a dark little corner of my long wooden back porch with the light of my screen painting my face in a blue glow, barely able to make out the keys. Bundled for warmth, I’m treating my footsies to the the thick fake-fur socks I bought for snow painting in Canada.
It seems impossible that today is the start of December. From Halloween to Thanksgiving and then Hanukkah (Happy Hanukkah this week!), Christmas and New Year’s seem to go by faster than firecrackers popping on Independence Day.
Spinning and Spinning
Thanksgiving week was a blessing. A staycation, no travel and just time with the family, sleeping in every morning and suddenly realizing how exhausted I have actually been. When you’re spinning on the merry-go-round, you simply have to find your balance and keep going until it winds down, but once you stop, you’re a little dizzy and you don’t want to get back on for a while. What a blessing it’s been not to wake up in a hotel room or have to catch another airplane. Though I love to travel, I needed a break and plan to stay home till Christmas, though that required canceling some trips.
Brady, one of our 16-year-old triplets, got his driver’s licence this past week, and his first car. We gave high fives at the driving test, and when he was handed his license, his smile was beaming. He could not wait to have that moment of freedom we all remember so well — his first time out driving alone. And as he pulled away, tears streamed down my cheeks, knowing this is the first of many clues that our little birds will soon fly away. The other two are right behind him.
This moment, though long expected, has been harder than I thought. My mind is racing with questions about how we’ve done as parents, whether the kids are ready for freedom, and what critical lessons we need to impart before our nest is empty.
A parent’s work is never done, and to this day I learn life lessons by observing my own parents, who are in their early 90s but still manage to surprise me with great advice. They have also done a great job of luring us with “worms” to get us back to their nests on a regular basis. Soon, we too will have to find ways to make the kids want to visit, to spend holidays and summers with us whenever possible.
The speed with which children grow up was predicted to us by everyone who has been through it, but you never really realize it until you’ve experienced it.
A New Kind of Box
Over the years we’ve kept memory boxes of special moments, with papers from school, art projects, and other things the kids will want. But now, I need to start working on lesson boxes. How can I impart wisdom and lessons? Though I’m hopeful my kids will someday want to look through my life’s work, the magazines I’ve produced, hundreds of editorials, the marketing courses, the marketing book, even my radio history book, those things are merely a blip in the grand tour we call life.
Comedian Jack Benny, prior to his death, arranged for a single red rose to be delivered to his widow every day for the rest of her life. What if we could create one lesson a day, or a week, and have those lessons e-mailed to our kids every day for the rest of their lives?
My new goal is to give my kids a lesson a week for the rest of my life. Something simple, something small, probably something said in passing when we’re together, not packaged as a lesson. But something deliberate.
The Rhoads Walk
We are formed by those who surround us. My grandmother used to say I had the “Rhoads walk,” and walked just like my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my father. I once asked a doctor if it was hereditary based on bone structure, and he said it was learned. We learn from observation.
Our kids learn from our good and bad traits, the way we interact with our spouses or parents, the time we spend or don’t spend with them, and that will probably be exactly how they treat their own parents and spouses. They learn how we interact with others, the time we spend helping others, our work habits, our focus, the time spent with our kids, and they tend to mimic our moments of anger, of joy, or our interaction with our Maker.
I became two people … my artist mom and my entrepreneur dad. It was never planned, it was based on what I absorbed from their behavior. I embrace it.
My offspring have absorbed a lot, some not so good and some, hopefully, good. But there is still time, and that time does not end when they leave the nest. It never ends while you’re alive, and may never end at all as lessons pop up over time in situations when we call on our brains and experience for solutions.
Still, to make sure certain things of value that have been learned are passed along, it’s important to be deliberate and start planting important lessons. Now I just need to start making my list.
What would be in your life lessons list?
If you could get your kids to remember only three things, what are the most important things you would want them to remember for the rest of their lives?
What are the best things you want them to discover and the lessons to help them discover them?
What are the things you can help them avoid?
What traits don’t you want them repeating?
What traits have served you well?
Do you have others who need your lessons? How will you pass them on? Is it time for you to write that book you’ve been talking about for years? Why wait? Sure, we think there is plenty of time, but if it’s really important, how about starting today? It all starts with a first action.
I’m guessing the lessons I learned have been passed down for generations, getting better with each one. And in there were probably some things that someone had to learn to change. Yet when we think about our role, we live on through our kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, and hopefully forever in the family lineage. Someone in your past was deliberate and purposeful in the lessons they offered, others passed on what they knew only by accident.
Which will you do?
I’d love your feedback in the comments below or in e-mail. I’m starting to work on my list and would love to hear about yours.
PS: Everywhere I go people are sharing their stories about Sunday Coffee and what it’s meant to them. Most have told me they’ve shared it with others. If there is a particular Sunday when you find something you think has value for others, I’d appreciate your sharing it. Just forward it with a link to subscribe (www.coffeewitheric.com).