I guess that since I write here and I’ve written other places and written a book, that makes me a writer. I’ve never considered myself one. I like to think of it as a conversation. Obviously, it’s one way, but whenever an idea comes to me, it’s more of a “let’s talk” than “let me tell you something.”
So, stuff comes onto my head all the time. Sometimes, I go right to the keyboard and put some words on the screen and sometimes I just file it away for later. Much of what I write never leaves the computer files. When I go back to review stuff, I might try to edit something to make it work, but for the most part, they just sit there. There are several pieces on this subject that I never could seem to get right and I don’t know that this one will be. I’ve been asked to speak at several funerals and people have come up to me afterward and complimented me, yet I always felt that I should have said the words to the person or at an event while the person was alive.
The recent events have forced families to be together and I hope most have made some great memories. Others may have just survived. Most of me is very private. For my own reasons, I don’t share a lot of very personal feelings in anything I write. Sure. I’ll make fun of myself or tell a funny story, but here I want to talk about my mother.
I was born late in life to my parents and my mother always said that I was what kept her young. She never said that to me, but that’s what she told everyone else.
I lived a gifted childhood: Comfortable home, great friends, wonderful community. Mom was a business person, so she knew everyone in town and they knew her and Dad.
High school graduation came and I was accepted at UMaine College of Engineering. It was a dream come true for Mom. For me, not so much.
It was way more work than I was interested in and after the first semester, my choices were drop out or flunk out. If I dropped out, I could come back the next fall. If I flunked out, it would be at least a year before I could come back.
There was a war going on and a student deferment was a cherished possession, so I dropped out and applied for the following fall semester. That was the beginning of the disappointment.
The second year of college with a different work load went OK, but I had no direction, was spending my parent’s money on something that had no value for me at the time, so I didn’t go back. I joined the Navy, got married and the rest is history. Mom never got over it. Never.
At her death at 85 years old, she never got over the disappointment of my not finishing college.
It was tough. She would tell others how proud she was of this or that, but never share it with me. I would get feedback about how positively she spoke of me, but she never said that to me.
My mother did not grow old gracefully. She was a handful. I mean a real handful.
In her later years, I vowed that I would never be like that to my kids, and I never will. They can take that to the bank. At every opportunity, she would tell me how disappointed she was that I didn’t graduate from the University of Maine.
I had served my country, had my own businesses, building a family, owned my own home, provided a comfortable, safe place for her to live, but the only thing on her mind was how I had let her down.
I don’t write this about me. I write this about you. Your kids are paying attention.
Robert Fulgum writes, “Don’t worry that your kids don’t listen to you, but worry very much that they watch everything you do.”
What you say to them in their formative years will stay with them forever. They will disappoint you. They may break your heart. It will hurt. You have two choices. You can put it in the past and make the future the best it can be or you can dwell on it. Whatever your choice, your kids will know.
I try to remember when my kids would bring something home from school that they had done. A drawing or some craft thing that was absolutely hideous. They were so proud and so was I. It was a genuine pride. They didn’t ask me to be a critic of their work. They just wanted me to react to their efforts and I reacted positively.
As they age, the test becomes harder for parents. The things they bring for approval are tougher to show enthusiasm for, but you need to do it. They’re still learning and they’re giving their best effort.
You’ll rarely read that I tell anyone what to do, but this is different. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and that you’re proud of them. No matter the age. The younger they are the more important it is, but if your kids are grown, that hug will mean a lot to them.
Here’s what I hope you’ll take from these ramblings. You’re going to be disappointed with things your kids do. Don’t be disappointed in your kids. They had no say in this deal. You had them. You raised them. Maybe things didn’t turn out the way you would have hoped, but don’t punish them for not meeting your expectations.
Bill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of BPackard.com. He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.