As I said good-bye to my Dad last week, I realized the huge whole he has left in my life. I knew it would be hard when he died, but even I didn’t understand how he had touched every area in my life. And just like my Dad taught me so much during his lifetime, he has taught me another lesson through his death. We don’t have to be perfect parents to leave a lasting positive legacy. Here are 4 ways to leave a lasting legacy as a parent that I learned from my Dad.
4 Ways to Leave a Lasting Legacy as a Parent
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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there. While it is also one of the best jobs, parenting is full of challenges and the potential to mess up because we are all flawed parents. And our kids are human too!
So how do we as messed up human beings raise our children in a way that leaves a positive legacy for generations to come. Here are 4 lessons I learned from my father on intentional parenting.
Show up Consistently as a Parent to Create a Lasting Legacy
You have to be present. Life has an ebb and flow. Sometimes as parents we will be busy, distracted or struggling emotionally ourselves with little to offer. But over the course of your parenting years are you consistently showing up?
My Dad was always around. If I needed help with math homework or wanted to see what he thought of a venture I was thinking about he was available.
As we gathered together pictures to play for his memorial service there were thousands of moments captured of his presence in our lives. There were family vacations when we were younger all the way up to this year with grown children and grandkids. There are holidays spent together. And all those little moments in between like teaching me to change my car oil, taking us ice skating, sledding, skiing together, helping to work on houses, and playing with the grandkids.
Leave a Lasting Legacy by Giving Your Kids Courage to Try New Things
My Dad was the best teacher when it came to sports. He seemed to have endless amounts of patience when it came to teaching. He taught all my brothers and I how to throw a ball (not like a girl:), to swim, to play tennis (I think I failed that one) to ski and set up camp. He also taught several of his grandkids how to ski as well.
If one of us kids or grandkids wanted to try something new he was super supportive. One of his favorite sayings was, “The worst they can tell you is ‘No’.” This gave me a lot of courage to try new things or reach for a big goal like owning a house as a single mom. Because I knew I had his support and that even if I failed he would be proud of me for trying!
Give Your Kids Your Approval
I heard someone talking recently about trying to win their parents approval even as an adult. It made me sad to hear that. This discussion made me mindful of how much I had my Dad’s backing my whole life.
My Dad set the example of continuing to show up every day for work and finding work he loved. So there was this unspoken expectation and example of how to work hard.
But my Dad seemed to take joy in hearing whatever we were into at the time. When I came up with the idea to be a flight attendant, he thought that was great. Of course it helped that we were both crazy about airplanes!
When I decided to start writing a blog a year ago, it wasn’t long before he was reading every post. In fact in his last text to me he told me how much he loved my most recent post.
Read that post on the importance of grandparents in our teen’s lives here.
Leave a Positive Legacy by Being Generous as a Parent with What You can Offer
I often wished that my Dad and I could talk more about emotions and feeling stuff. It was hard at times not being able to connect in that way.
However, as I got older I started to see that there were so many great things about my Dad. In all the ways that he could give, he gave generously. He really taught me that you didn’t have to be perfect as a parent. But you should always give freely to your children what you were able to give.
When the computer ate my paper he would get up in the middle of the night to help me fix it. If my car broke down (unfortunately it was the middle of the night again), he showed up to fix it.
My Dad was also a great wood worker. When I came up with this awesome idea in college to build a huge loft for my dorm room and transport it across 3 states, he helped me. He built mantels, bookshelves, a window seat and a beautiful table that he finished just weeks before he passed, for me. When we built a house and completely remodeled another he showed up to help stain wood and lay trim.
4 Ways to Leave a Lasting Legacy as a Parent
It is hard to continue to overcome and get back up after our mistakes. It is a daily struggle to be the best parent and grandparent we can be. So I am thankful for the example my Dad set for me.
But we all can learn from those that have gone before us. Even if you don’t have that example from your parents you can learn and grow from other mentors.
Several years back, I read this awesome book Inside my Heart by Robin McGraw. Her book was so profound in how she demonstrates how to take the positives we learned from our parents and leave the rest. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing deal. We can make deliberate choices as adults to choose to carry on those emotionally health habits and to release those toxic behaviors.
I loved how her book, Inside my Heart, showed how to bravely and intentionally parent!
Let’s parent with the intention of getting a little better each year as a parent so as to leave a lasting legacy for our kids and grandkids.
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I definitely sensed that in my Dad’s life and his death. These last few years, I have seen my Dad become more open with his praise and thankful. Instead of becoming bitter about life or the cancer, he talked about how thankful he was for God, his wife, his kids and grandkids. And just how blessed he felt.
And now he has the ultimate freedom. He is now free of that body that caused him so much pain and cancer treatments. He is free of all the personal struggles that come with this life. Through Christ, my Dad has shed his old body and all its toils and been granted complete freedom and his reward in Heaven.
A special thanks to my mom for caring so much for my Dad, especially these last years, all while still setting a wonderful example of caring for herself too as the caregiver. And a thank you to James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University for their excellent medical care.