May 2, 2018

Being There For Younger Generations


A few years ago I wrote about leaving a legacy. Usually a legacy is thought of as a gift of money or property for someone after you die. The second way to think of a legacy is something that you have achieved that continues to exist after your death.

This time I'd like to focus on the legacies of experience and knowledge that we can pass on to those younger than us. Most of my thoughts will be about my grandkids, though I do have a few examples of interacting with others, whether you are related or not.

My daughter and son-in-law are raising three inquisitive, sensitive, thoughtful, and caring children. They have the benefits of a loving, stable home life, an uncle and two cousins, plus two sets of grandparents who are active in their lives and live only five minutes away.

Betty and I see them every Sunday, both at church, and again for an afternoon of games and dinner together. Most Wednesday afternoons, mom and the kids come to our house for a few hours to play, maybe watch an educational TV show, work on a craft project, and have a snack (my goodness can growing kids eat!).

During these times together I am quite aware that I am modeling adult behavior. How I talk to each of them, gently correct something, engage in games and play, interact with their mother and my wife....they see and hear it all.

Recently, my eleven year old grandson and I have been building wooden model kits together. He challenges me to chess most Wednesdays. He invents games and asks me for my opinion on how to improve them. He asks about financial things and wants to know how money and credit work. Now, he and I are doing a 10 minute Bible study...his idea and under his direction.

With my granddaughters I try my best to support their activities, praise their successes, comfort them over problems, and attempt to enforce the message that they can do anything they set their minds to. The youngest wants to build a wooden model with me, too, while the nine year old delights in showing me her increasingly complex paintings.


In addition to the three children I am related to, I believe strongly in the need to pass on my experiences to others. Once a semester I volunteer as a Junior Achievement teacher at a nearby elementary school. Located in a lower middle class neighborhood, these kids are only getting financial lessons from TV, the Internet, or smartphone apps. 

Financial literacy and understanding the consequences of their decisions with money will help determine the future of these children. I believe the 45 minutes we spend together each week will help them make better choices.

During my consulting career I made it a point to act as a mentor to someone who was new to the business or eager to learn. Rather than leaving his or her development to chance, it seemed important to help them avoid common pitfalls and build strong career-related habits. One man I worked with later became the owner of several radio stations. He claims he learned more from me than anyone else in his career. 

It is very nice to hear him say that. Importantly it supports my belief in the power of being a mentor. Helping those younger or less experienced than us is a responsibility we all share. And it feels good.

Being available to younger folks is something we can all do. It could be through a formal arrangement, like Junior Achievement or one of the various mentoring programs. It could be time spent with grandkids, nephews and nieces. It could be teaching Sunday school or helping as a volunteer at a nearby school. 

Sharing what we have learned from life should be part of our satisfying retirement.


14 comments:

  1. Insightful post Bob. For those of us who are without heirs the only way our legacy is passed is by what we do. I too have been thinking about this topic rather seriously lately and am working on a post entitled "Wisdom is wasted on the elderly" It needs to be passed on to have any value, and that is what I try to do over at RJsCorner.

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    1. You make a good point: those without children (and hence, grandkids) have a different challenge in passing on knowledge and experience. It would be a shame if a lifetime of learning disappeared when we do.

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  2. We won't be leaving a whole lot financially- unless we die way before our expiration dates. I'd like to say that religion is our thing, but really it is education. We do pay for some extra lessons or schooling here or there. We are saving money for high school education- since there are few good choices for them in this area. Forget college- a good high school will set the course.
    My husband and I are from the West. We moved East to see our grands more often. We grew up with bows and arrows, target practice, stream fishing, solar cooking, wood working and training the rain to water the gardens. We enjoy sharing those things---along with our books and art. Our "wisdoms" are shared in quiet ways. The funniest is having our 10 yr old grandson call his Papa to discuss what is the best approach for solving some crazy Common Core math problem. Papa has a degree in Mathematics.
    Mostly we see our role as supporting and assuring our own adult children that they are doing a terrific job bringing up their children as good people. Time sure flies- doesn't it? I cannot believe that we only have 7 more years with the oldest..... I hope he always see us as people he could depend on- unconditionally.
    PS- I admire those who raise their grands. Wow!

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    1. The change in what is provided by schools is shocking. My experience was growing up with a whole range of extra activities like band, drama, woodworking, all sorts of sports choices, student newspaper, student council, etc.

      My oldest daughter's children are attending a charter school at the moment. But, its size limits the extracurricular activities it can offer. So, after an extensive search, it appears the kids will attend a large public middle and high school that has enough resources to offer a full range of choices. For now, grand and granddad help pay for private things like drama, music, and sport activities.

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  3. I always thought I would be taking my grandchildren on wonderful excursions and buying them some treats their parents could not afford. But all parents are doing quite well financially and most of the grands are in a number of activities that I wouldn't have dreamed of for my own children, and would have been a far away fantasyland for my own childhood.

    Be that as it may I still try to have some influence on them. I try to tell them about things when I was a child, which I believe they really like to hear, and hope will remember when I'm gone. I recently found a store that specializes in soda and candy from the 1950s. It's mind boggling trip back to childhood. I picked up some wax lips and those tiny wax "soda" bottle cartons. Remember how we chewed the wax for a little while before spitting it out? Anyway, I'm wrapping them up as one of her birthday presents for my soon-to-be 9 year old granddaughter and will be explaining about going to the store for candy when I was a kid.

    I hope she'll remember the story.

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    1. I do remember those wax lips!

      One of the reasons I am pleased the grandkids show some interest in helping me with my wooden kit-making is how different it is from the video-cell phone-visual world that they are growing up in. All three are somewhat out of step from that reality at the moment, preferring to read, play card or board games (!), or watch TV shows like Brain Games that teach things.

      Will it last as they get older? I'll do my best to keep reinforcing the idea that a mind develops with stimulation of all sorts, not just in the electronic world.

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  4. Hi Bob! Good for you for not only attempting to be supportive and model excellent behavior to your own grandchildren, but for also reaching out to other children. We can all do that. I don't have children or grandchildren of my own but I have served as a mentor in several different groups and I also believe that I am supportive and "modeling behavior" to my nieces, nephews and their children. I think we all have more influence that we know. ~Kathy

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    1. Absolutely, we have tremendous influence on all sorts of people during virtually every interaction during our day. Trying to make each of them worthy of a larger goal is the challenge.

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  5. When I got my first job as a nurse I was hazed and harassed something awful. I was told “Nurses eat their young.” What an awful phrase.But it was a harrowing first year. I made it through. I vowed to ALWAYS be a kind mentor and role model for new nurses and for my entire career I volunteered to take on the students, to let them shadow me, work with me, etc. even if it made more work for me. I personally have a commitment to “legacy” and well, to human kindness!! In our careers, and in our churches, our neighborhoods, our volunteeer activities, we always have a choice to be a role model and to lend others a hand up.That is my legacy.

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    1. Your legacy is the type all of us can achieve with a little effort and sensitivity. Thanks, Madeline.

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  6. Oh,forgot to mention legacy within the family!! LOL!! It would be nice if there is something left for our son when we pass on but we’re not planning on that specifically. We will use what we need. He has a great job and a retirement plan.Neither Ken nor I received inheritances. We have always shared our bounty with our son while we are here now to enjoy it..family trips, dinners out,etc. but he has been successful in his own right and has told us to let our last check bounce!! I have much more energy into providing him with a legacy of being a good person in this world and being kind and inquisitive, to follow his passions, to stay open minded. It’s important to me that Ken and I have all the experiences we dreamed of in our elder years .

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    1. It is a never ending balance, isn't it, between wanting to experience all we can in this life while helping our offspring. Your son is fully on his own, making a good living, and probably is well on his way to a successful retirement.

      Our motivation for passing on some of the bounty is a "pay it forward" decision. My parents left a very nice "gift" for their three sons. Betty and I would like to continue that practice. I don't count that as a true legacy since the money didn't come from me.

      At the same time, both daughters would be very unhappy if Betty and I denied ourselves some lifetime experiences just to pass on a little more money. So, we will bow to their wishes!

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  7. I've spent a lot more time with my grandson in the last few weeks. First there was spring break, and then last week he got his tonsils out, so I've been providing extra childcare while he's been out of school and his parents are at work.

    This week, we had to do some things that were not high on his choice list. I had to run some errands that he did not enjoy. And his teacher had sent home some work for him to do during his missed school days. Rather than dealing with his resistance, I looked for ways to make things fun. At one point, he looked at me and said, "I didn't think that would be fun, but you made it fun. You make everything fun."

    I'm sure that's not true, but at least at that moment it seemed that way to him. I loved hearing that, especially because I know I was not a very fun mom. Working full time and single parenting a bunch of kids kept me focused on necessities and organization. But now as a grandparent and retired, I treasure my time with him, and I enjoy the challenge of getting him engaged with something besides the TV!

    I hope one day he will look back at these times together and remember the fun we had together.

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    1. That's a great story, Galen, and one of the joys of this stage of life: extra time and effort to make a lasting memory for someone. We look forward to seeing how big he has grown during our visit later this summer.

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