About once every 3 weeks, something happens that makes me question my parenting skills (actually that’s not the real timescale ….. but I don’t want you to judge me.) Last Friday, after the end of a long week, I sat watching one of my favourite comedies, Modern Family – relieved (totally relieved and grateful) that my children were out for the night at grandparents.
As I was lying across the sofa, huge glass of wine in one hand and massive plate of takeaway food in my lap, feeling really happy that:
a) I was drinking
b) The kids were out
c) I hadn’t cooked
the following exchange took place between two of the characters on the show, Phil Dunphy and Alex, one of his daughters:
Phil: I wanna be Eugene Cernan.
Alex: Who’s Eugene Cernan?
Phil: Apollo 17 astronaut, last man on the moon, coolest dad of all time. When he was leaving the moon he reached out and wrote his daughter’s initials in the lunar surface. Since there’s no atmosphere..
Alex: ..they’ll be there forever. Wow, so every time she looks in the sky she knows there’s a message just for her.
I can’t lie, I’d never heard that story before (I know it makes me sound ‘girly’ but I never really got the whole hysteria about space travel when I was a child) and all it made me think was ‘Good God ….. how am I going to top that ?’
A couple of days later I googled Eugene Cernan and found this quote from him (to be honest, I was hoping the story wasn’t true):
‘I drove the Rover about a mile away from the LM and parked it carefully so the television camera could photograph our takeoff the next day. As I dismounted, I took a moment to kneel and with a single finger, scratched [my daughter] Tracy’s initials, ‘TDC,’ in the lunar dust, knowing those three letters would remain there undisturbed for more years than anyone could imagine.’
So then this made me think about what sort of legacy I would be leaving my daughters, and in particular the messages I repeat most often:
No, Converse aren’t school shoes ….. take them off
It’s a school night, so no
This is why I asked you not to do that
Go to your room and come back down when you’ve thought about what you’ve just said
Don’t text while I’m talking to you
No, I will not lend you money until you get your allowance
No, I will not increase your allowance
Is that your definition of tidying your room ?
and on and on and on.
Interestingly, I couldn’t think of any regular phrases that were positive – most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth seems to be centred on telling them to stop doing whatever it is they’re doing, want to do, or that their friends do. Which means that, if I do not want them to hear my voice telling them to ‘put on a cardi because it’s chilly’; or some other semi-critical instruction whenever they think of me, I’m going to have to change my standard script and give more thought to what I say and how often I repeat it. (Alternatively, they could just do what I ask in the first place, which would save an awful lot of time.)
So to you, dear reader – what do you say most often and to whom, and is that how you want them to remember you ? (And just so you know, if you are the sort of person who makes an effort to tell people how much they mean to you on a regular basis; identify positive character traits in others and focus on them when you speak, and generally practise mindful communication ……… keep it to yourself ……… the rest of us are giving it our best shot.)