How will your kids remember you?
A morbid question, I know.
And how about your spouse, if he or she outlives you?
Are you mainly the disciplinarian in your house? Or are you the ‘good time Charlie’?
Does your spouse see you as an angry or miserable person most of the time?
Do you tend to always be nervous or worried about what needs to be done next, or what has yet to be done?
Are you rarely ever PRESENT and FOCUSED in the moment with your family?
Do you think that you ‘add to’ or ‘take away from’ the overall milieu at home?
Life is short.
Before we know it our kids are grown and don’t need us quite as much; and when we look in the mirror we start to see our mothers and fathers.
I think it’s important, during these times of ever increasing freneticism in our lives, to consider how quickly time goes by and how quickly opportunities to record happy memories goes by with it.
When is the last time you were with your children and DIDN’T feel an internal pressure to be elsewhere or to be doing something else?
Are you a constant multi-tasker? Or do you have times when you consciously and deliberately switch gears so that you can focus on one thing at a time and give yourself a break?
Are you always trying to “get through” your day or do you sometimes get to “live” your day in a Deliberate, conscious, enjoyable manner?
Have you ever experimented with just answering “yes” to your kids requests to do things with them, just to see where they’ll lead you?
“Mommy, can you color with me?”
“Daddy, can you come outside and play with me?”
“Mommy, can we bake something?”
“Daddy, can you come help me with this?”
How quick are you to say “no” to them or “in a minute!”? How about to your spouse?
Saying “yes” can sometimes help us push our limits when our old patterns and mental grooves tell us that we can’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, mustn’t, or dare not!
(I quite recently found my early-middle-aged-self sliding down a dry mountain on my early-middle-aged-butt, sitting inside a way-too-small rubber tube wondering if my disability insurance was all paid up! I’m sure my kids –and my wife– will remember that one for quite some time!)
One of the reasons I so enjoy treating adults in my practice who happen to also be parents is that they already come with a built-in mechanism for self-growth: Their Kids!
They do push us to be what they need us to be.
If only we’ll take their lead and go for it!
Part of our task in life, other than to simply survive, is to find ways to flourish and to grow into relatively competent, calm, secure adults.
Life doesn’t give us all the answers, no matter how old we become, but it DOES give us plenty of opportunities to learn, and it also constantly invites us to jump up to the next plateau and to take it from there.
For many, if not most of us, our childhood experiences with our original caregivers did not give us the model or framework we now need in order to be able to see ourselves mastering life and thriving; we may have been shown how to ‘handle’ life, but not necessarily how to conduct it masterfully and with a sense of adventure and grace.
Mastery, tranquility, and extra ’emotional fat on the bone’?
So let’s practice pushing ourselves and broadening our abilities in our lives.
If you’re already married and have children, you’ve got your built-in laboratory right there! (By the way, in my upcoming book, “Don’t Get Married! Unless You Understand A Few Things First”, I describe EXACTLY how and why marriage is actually an ‘Emotional Laboratory’ for individual growth.)
Practice saying “yes” to your family more and see where it takes you for the day.
You might be surprised where you find yourself (on a mountain top with a few premature ventricular contractions?), and what you find yourself doing.
AND…you’ll be GRABBING life, stopping that unstoppable clock for a moment or two, and creating some permanent, happy memories for all!
Good luck and all my best,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.