Tuesday, September 30, 2008

History in the Making

"In every conceivable manner, family is our link to our past, bridge to our future." -Alex Haley

We are living in historic times. Twenty years from now, our children and your grandchildren will be learning about the fascinating events of the past months, weeks, days, hours, in school. They'll be asking us what it was like to live in a time when our financial system went through a period of turmoil at the same time our political system went through a period of 'change.'

This made me aware of one of the more important roles we play as parents: history teacher. It is our job to tell our children about the world as we know it, the world as we knew it, the world that was, the world that is, the world that we hope will be.

It's daunting, when you imagine all of the things you want your child to know about, to care about, to understand.

For example:

-Penelope will never know my father personally, only through the stories I tell her. She'll hear other stories, for sure. But she'll put the most weight behind mine. I control the image that she will have of her grandfather.

-She's going to ask us about September 11, 2001. And I'm going to have to tell her what I saw on television, out of my window, in my rearview mirror, on the faces of the countless people I ran by on my way into work, on the faces of my co-workers after days of sleepless wall-to-wall coverage, on the smiling faces of strangers whose pictures were posted by hopeful family members on every street corner of Hoboken. No book can teach her, tell her, what I can.

-Her first memory of a U.S. President will be of whomever we elect just over a month from now. Barack Obama or John McCain will be to her what Jimmy Carter was for me: THE President of the United States. Laugh all you want. I actually cried when he lost his bid for re-election. Again, laugh all you want. It had nothing to do with politics. I was five years old, and remember my Grandpa Sal applauding the results. I didn't understand why someone would want another person to be President. Isn't he the President? What will we do? What will he do? Who is this new guy? These are questions I will now have to answer.

-The "new" Yankee Stadium will just be "Yankee Stadium" to her. She will never know a world with the old one, even though she was present for a game during its final season. It is my job to pass along the tradition.

-There are also fun stories I can't wait to tell her. Like how her mother and I started dating: the awkward triple date from which we are the only couple still standing. Like how I proposed, leaving notes around our favorite spots in Hoboken and sending her on a scavenger hunt to find me. Like our wedding, and how I cried when it was over (because my wife kept feeding me Sambuca shots that she didn't want to do). Like our amazing odyssey through Italy, and how every time I tried to order a meal, no matter which city we were in or which entree I wanted, I ended up with veal.

Memorable moments don't just have to be sad ones.

This is a huge burden, a huge responsibility we share as parents. But it is also a great blessing and a great opportunity. An opportunity to make this world a better place. To instill values, traditions, context, without necessarily shaping opinions. Her view of the world doesn't have to be my view of the world, but it will be molded, in part, by my view of the world. Scary, I know. Thank God she has her mother too!

It's humbling. You realize the importance of every single decision, big or small, you make as a parent. Everything you say, everything you do, everything you think, will have some kind of impact on how your child turns out. What she believes. What she thinks. How she thinks. How she acts.

An impact, ultimately, on history.

3 comments:

  1. Our children and YOUR grandchildren...!? You had me at hello. Are you in la la land or just me. You know, Penelope can very well be a parent in 20 years...making YOU a grandfather.
    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Every word, including the word "your" in that sentence is chosen deliberately and very carefully.

    Thank you, "anonymous" reader, for pointing out that my daughter may be a mother before she's out of college. Very comforting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. LOVE THE PENELOPE BLOG,IESPECIALLY LOVE PENELOPE'S PIGTAILS AND PUZZLE.I LAUGHED,AND I CRIED.PENELOPE MAKES ME HAPPY,AND I'M SURE SHE'S MAKING YOUR FATHER HAPPY TOO!! ALTHOUGH I'M STILL WAITING FOR AN UPDATE ON PENELOPE'S WORD BANK!

    ReplyDelete

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