Monday, November 24, 2008

The Gift of History

Ah tis that time of year, the weather is getting colder and December is coming on. Mom and Dad are checking their bank account and budget whilst a certain youngling of ours makes a list and checks it twice. Yep, you guesed it, Josh's birthday is coming up :)

And what gift, I ask, can be better than that of history? Am I right? See, there is this gift that I make for Josh every year but he never gets it. I've been doing it his whole life. And although it directly relates to him, at precisly where he's at each year, he's not yet ready for the gift. And so Dad waits. What is this gift you may ask?

A letter.

Or more to the point, letters. Each year of Josh's life I've written him a letter, detailing the highlights of that year for him. When he's 18, he'll get them all from dear old Dad. Honestly, I can't remember the "why" or "how" of this letter writing business. But I'm glad I've stuck with it.

If you're a person reading this blog, I have some tips for you, should you decide to take up pen and paper, or in my case, monitor and keyboard to fashion some letters of the heartstrings for certain younglings in your life. Here is how I do mine anyway and perhaps you can take something from this for your own ... feel free.

I generally sit down and write with one thing in mind. I pretend that Josh is already 18 and I'm telling him all about his "whatever number year" it is with all the clarity that recent memory can bring. Said another way, I picture it like a narration of his past year but written to an adult. Just like I'm talking to him. And I write it all down. I don't get all weird and make notes all throughtout the year. Its not a "captains log", its a letter of reflection, relax already :)
I do try to anticipate any questions he might have in the future, about what I'm writing, and address those issues too. And most of all, I write in advice along the way from one man to another. Fatherly things I've learned along the way, that year, that there is no way I'll remember when he's 20, 30, or 40. Sometimes it's even about marriage.

The point is that these are details that I'll only remember right now, in these moments when I sit down to think about how he's grown, the facial expressions he uses, what we've experienced as a family, the things he finds funny, the shows he likes, and as many of the goofy things we do together; that most likely I will have forgotten with the passage of time and so will he. But it's those small things, that I'm trying to write down now, that will be a big part of making him the man he will be someday. So hopefully, when he's older and ready to read all of these letters, it will be a wealth of information and sparks for future conversations between him and me.

A lot of times, fathers and sons grow apart over time. I'm hoping that these letters can be a part of keeping that door propped open so we can still walk through it all the time in the coming years.

Well, okay - coming up for air ... that was more a list of feelings that a list of "how-to's" wasn't it? But I think you get the picture. Now for those of you who think history is boring, take a look at your kid(s). Think about all the things you'll forget if you don't chronicle it now in some way. Doesn't need to be letters like I'm writing. Maybe writing isn't your bag. But do something. Don't let your family's memories just pass without holding onto them somehow.

Strong families are built on good relationships, and good relationships are built on communication. A major way we communicate is talking about what has been, not what will be. Talking about our history and learning from it is one big way in how we grow.

Remember, nobody ever learned anything from the future and you can't make things better based on tomorrows; start today :)

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