2018 was a grand year! There were graduations and weddings and birthdays and promotions. So much to celebrate. And it was a scary year. There were concerns about aging and losing my independence. Thankfully, I passed my written driving test and renewed my driver’s license. But that was after flunking it the first time. Over the winter break, I had a heart attack and had to have stents put in.
And, I felt more deeply than I ever felt before the glow of seeing values that my wife and I consciously taught our children in action, as my children separately took time away from their day-to-day lives to care for me during my recovery.
The Teaching and Learning Culture and Seeing your Values in Action
When I talk to grandparents they often ask, “What will be my legacy?” “How can I leave values, not just valuables, to my family?” The process of teaching values to our children starts the day they are born. It happens from what we say and even more so as they observe our actions. We hope, but there’s no guarantee as to which values will stick.
Thankfully I’ve had 60 some-odd years with each of my children. But 40+ of those they have been independent adults. For many parents, the four or five years before that, when our children are teenagers, are spent trying to purposely defy our values!
That’s why I was so moved about the care my children gave me in my time of need. That is a value that was so important to my wife Margaret and me: You care about every member of the family and you take care of them. As a parent, of course, we took care of all of our children’s physical needs as they grew-up. We nurtured them. We got them through college.
The Value of Caring for a Family Member in Need
It goes deeper. I took care of my wife Margaret for eight years as she suffered with cancer. I didn’t send her any place. She stayed at home. I took care of my mom after my dad died. To me it was what you did.
Both of my children live out of town. They easily could have made very fine and competent arrangements to have a caretaker at home with me as I recovered. But they didn’t. My son Michael took “first shift,” caring for me for a week in his home in Madison (I was in Madison when the attack happened). He then drove me to Deerfield before heading back to catch up with his busy psychiatry practice. Then my daughter Ellen took time away from her job as COO of a $280M not-for-profit social service agency to spend the next week with me at my home.
I was aglow. Beyond the absolute joy of being surrounded by their love, I realized how this demonstrated their commitment to this value that had been so important to Margaret and me. Family cares for family.
The glow was not just “you love me,” (although that is a great feeling). It was knowing that the teaching and learning culture of our family had meant something. It was feeling that my wife and I had taught them values that were now part of their being, part of who they are.