Written by: Joe Fiduccia
Virtually all parents would agree – having kids is a life changing experience. Isn’t it?
Let’s think about this for a moment. All those years growing up, it was always about us. In our pre-teens, for example, the focus was on having fun on the playground and trying to get that good grade on the next spelling test.
In our teens we begin to explore ourselves emotionally, perhaps seeking out someone special to share a relationship with, and maybe figuring out ways to deal with more pressing social issues.
In college we pursue the interests we love most, or at least attempt to find something that ignites that passion deep within us.
And post college, we likely land a career, fall in love, and start a family (not necessarily in that order).
But more than two decades of a typical early life is spent discovering our journey. Learning what we are made of, and experiencing those life lessons that help mold us into who we are today.
Then the day comes when it is no longer about you. The day your first child is born is the same day every ounce of your being has shifted towards giving them the best life possible. You can’t wait for your newborn to grow up so you can enjoy a game of catch in the yard, painting fingernails with their first makeup kits, and imparting the wisdom you have rightfully earned.
You suddenly realize that it’s now your job as a parent to teach your child about life. As a result, we almost immediately start conjuring up an internal filing system. We begin mentally organizing all of the stories and lessons from our past, maybe filing them away by age bracket, gender, and importance.
We start developing a plan of what we will pass down to our children, and when. All so they can learn from our experience, and so they hopefully don’t make the same mistakes we did.
But what are those mistakes exactly? What are those bits of wisdom you would pass on to them? What stories are you planning on sharing from your past? What are the specific lessons you would encourage them to learn in preparation for their future?
And how would all of that change if you knew tomorrow would never come?
Now I already know what you are thinking. Because we all have this grandeur plan already mapped out.
We help our children understand the importance of “living life to its fullest,” or “making the best of any situation,” or “cherishing time with family and friends.”
And the list goes on: “money isn’t everything; do what makes you happy; friends come and go;” etc.
So with those more common bits out of the way for a moment, I want you to really think. Dig deeper into your soul. Look further into your past. Relive the journey that has gotten you this far in life.
If death was knocking on your door sooner than you expected, what have you been holding onto? What have you waited to tell your kids that just can’t wait anymore?
What would you really want to say in your final words to your children?
Would you tell them about…your traditions?
For example, there are certain things you do in life that were either passed down to you, or things that you had a hand in starting. So which of those moments would you want your children to understand the meaning behind? Would it be family dinners every Sunday? Game nights? Walks to a local ice cream shop once a month? Traveling to a new city every year?
What would you want your kids to know about those routine moments that became so important in your life? Moreover, do you want them to continue those same traditions in your absence?
Or would you use this time to tell your kids about…your career experience?
Maybe you are waiting for the day when they are old enough to get their first paycheck. You can’t wait to tell them about the first job you had making $5.05 an hour. But what would say about it? What was it like to hold a job as a young adult? Did you love it? Hate it?
Would you tell your kids about the internships you held in college, and the career you chose to pursue when it was all over?
And what about those butterfly feelings you get in your first job interviews? Or those intense moments when you really screwed up, and the boss calls you into the office for a chat?
Think about those times in life when you just weren’t happy in your career anymore. Have you ever wanted to move on to something new, but couldn’t find a good way to do it financially?
When it comes to making a living, what has your journey in corporate America taught you? What should your children know before they start earning that paycheck, and become part of the working class?
If we didn’t have much time left, would you want the last few conversations with your children to be about…friendships?
Each and every one of us has experienced both sides of a friendship. The good, the bad (and sometimes the ugly). We all remember those fun times on the playground in elementary school, when it seemed like just about everyone would get along. Friendships formed, but then seemed to crumble just as quickly.
As life went on, we continued meeting new people. Some of them even became our closest friends. It was a connection that you felt would last forever. But then something happened and now that bond is broken. And all this time you can’t help but wonder if you were the reason things went sour.
In the pit of your stomach you know your child will experience that same joy of making new friends, and the potential heartache of losing them. You can’t bear the thought of seeing them in pain.
So would you use this time to share the experiences you’ve had with friends? Would you help your children understand why “friends come and go”? Would you build up their confidence enough so they realize that not everyone will want to be their friend? Would you be proactive in helping them get through those difficult breakups that you know are just around the corner?
Or maybe in your final moments, would you decide to share…your wishes for their future?
We have been fortunate enough to watch our children get this far. They have excelled in educational skills like math and reading. They enjoy various sports and activities like soccer, cheerleading, and baseball. They develop an interest in certain hobbies like fixing cars or making jewelry.
And in the blink of an eye, you realize they are on the path to discovering their identity.
You have watched your children grow up so fast. You now have a small glimpse into their future. You have seen what they like, and have observed the happiness that accompanies their biggest passions. You only want the best for their future and thus want to help guide them in the direction you believe they should head towards.
So do you use this opportunity to share all the potential you see in your child? Do you pass down all the hopes and dreams you have for their future, and give them the tips and tools they’ll need to keep that fire alive?
In the end, the reality is that death is knocking on the door for ALL of us. We just don’t know when the door will open, and subsequently close.
Yes – we should “make the best of life.” Yes – we should “cherish time with family and friends”. And hopefully, these are the same common bits of wisdom we are all trying to instill in our children every day.
But isn’t it time we dig a bit deeper? Isn’t it time we really give some thought to the lessons we teach our kids, and the legacy we leave behind for them?
Some of our children may be very young. And like myself at times, you might be waiting until they are older before you can share certain stories about life.
But what if you never get that chance?
What if death opened its door for you tomorrow? And what if all of the experience…all of the wisdom…and all of the lessons from your life were trapped behind a door that your children will never be able to open?
So I ask you: what are the deeper pieces of your soul that deserve a spotlight in your child’s future?