Connecting with Family
Posted by Todd Smith
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On this Father’s Day weekend, I am reminiscing about my family and the connectedness I am enjoying today. I am remembering past events that have contributed to my philosophy about what it takes to have a connected family.
From my experience, I define connectedness as that place in any relationship where two people meet, find safety and respect in openness, know differences will not divide, and are valued and bound together by love and the freedom to be authentically one’s self.
Influencing Generations Through Our Choices
For the last 13 years I have been engaged in researching our family’s genealogy with my now 95-year-old brother. It has been an informative and rewarding pursuit providing me an enriched perspective on life and one’s contribution to future generations.
From my genealogical research dating back to the 1500’s, I have concluded that not much, if anything, will be remembered about us personally beyond the third generation. But, our profound choices can and probably will have a “ripple” effect on generations to come. To illustrate, one line of ancestors chose to come to America on the Mayflower. Another chose to join in the fight for independence in the American Revolution, while another chose to remain loyal to the British Crown and moved to Nova Scotia. Choices, choices, choices! They have certainly impacted generations to follow. And I realize that my choices today could also have an impact on my descendents.
Learning from Relationships
When I was only 16 years old, my father died suddenly at age 66. I knew him as a quiet, honorable, and respected man. He indeed was a man of fine character, but we never “connected.” That relationship greatly influenced my intentions as a father. So I aspired to be like him—a man of integrity; but I also choose to be a father of intentional connectedness. I have four children and fourteen grandchildren. My relationship with each one is special, unique, and greatly treasured. I experience rewarding connectedness with each one.
Passing the Baton
Something else I am remembering this Father’s Day is the relay race at track and field events. While in high school I was a member of a relay team which competed in the two-mile relay. I was in the second position on the team for each event. I remember how much emphasis and importance our coach placed on the “hand off” of the baton. Actually the race could be won or lost depending on how well the first three relay members passed on the baton.
I have drawn an analogy from that experience, reminding myself of the grave importance in passing on life’s baton to my children and grandchildren. For me, two special concerns remain:
1) What am I passing on?
2) How well am I making the “hand off?”
Reaping a Grand Reward
Finally I have come to realize there is a “gift exchange” between generations. The exchange begins with parents and grandparents who love, listen, and recognize with respect each child’s natural preferences and affirm his or her potential. Eventually the gifts of honor and gratitude will return from the children for years to come. That has been my cherished experience.
Are we a perfect family? By no means! But, we are on a journey together where faith, hope, and love are the atmospherics we breathe. We believe in one another, we desire and expect good things for one another, and we love and forgive one another. Is that always easy? Not at all! But it’s more than worth it.
For me, being the father and grandfather in our family is one wonderfully rewarding journey. I salute my children and grandchildren for who they are and are becoming.
I challenge you to resist trying to control others; accept each person for who they are. Engage in genuine listening and understanding. Be consistent in respect for one another. It almost always makes for treasured connectedness.
I certainly agree with Jack Baker (actor and author) who said, “Every dad, if he takes time out of his busy life to reflect upon his fatherhood, can learn ways to become an even better dad.”
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