As I moved through the throngs of visitors on Grandparents’ Day, watching and listening I was struck not only by the sheer number of people at the Preparatory School, but by what I heard being shared. Stories were the theme of the day. Many of the stories came from our students sharing their learning, progress, friends and details around school life. The other stories I heard were snippets of verbal ‘gold’. Grandparents and others were sharing their story, their insights and their wisdom. Not to be too dramatic, but what I heard through the myriad of stories were elements of love, loss, joy, pain, family and connection. Basically the essence of life and our shared humanity.
My other takeaway, besides a good joke on wisdom, was the raw power of storytelling. Stories matter and often the most powerful stories lie within our own families. Shared stories help us to learn about each other, and in turn, about ourselves. All of us have a story to share and often we are just waiting for the right person or time to share it. And the time… is right now.
We can’t afford to wait until “the next best opportunity” to ask grandparents and parents to share with us our story, our family heritage, and our shared humanity. But why now? Why pick up the phone, connect on FaceTime, drive over to their home or seek out estranged members of your family? Actually, you all know the answer to that one. One of the deep pains of our shared humanity is of loss and the unpredictability of life. Now is the time, because tomorrow may well look very different; life changes quickly. Especially when we least want it to.
Through our children and families collecting, preserving and sharing our family stories we build connection between ourselves and others. Quite simply, in doing so we create a more compassionate and caring world. Our stories show that our family’s story is unique, but the lessons are universal and common.
One conversation last Friday did stop me in my tracks. Four grandparents were sitting together and the comments were along the lines of “these were the best days ever”. They were watching a group of our students playing and talking. I stopped and agreed with the comment, but to my surprise was met with a collective chuckle from the group (I am used to that so I stayed). One of the group said that I had come in at the end of several stories and missed the context (again something I’m clearly familiar with). When asked what I had missed the group explained that they were not talking about childhood being the ‘best days ever’ but instead the hectic, crazy days of parenting. They said that it was only after they had left the stages of carpools, lunch boxes, lost socks, tears, 10-year-old angst, 15-year-old smells and the whirlwind of raising kids, did they realise that it was the best time of their lives. There were also a few laughs and comments about how nice it is to spoil grandkids now and just hand them back.
But, the clear message was to us as parents. In all the daily, weekly, and yearly going-ons of raising kids we may need to slow down and stop to realise that we are also living (according to the wisdom of our elders) the single best time in our lives. I found that hard to believe but what I heard was the collective experience of our shared humanity. Enjoy the now as it will not last forever.
Thank you for the wisdom and insight. I do hope I remember this on the days when everything hectic about raising kids seems like it will never end.
Please, collect, save and discuss your family’s stories. You will not regret it, and in doing so, we build a better, more compassionate world for all of us.
The other piece of ‘wisdom’ I received on the day was a joke told to me about ‘smart’ and ‘wise’. I was grabbed by the arm in a vice-like grip and asked by the earnest gentleman if I knew the difference between smart and wise. I desperately tried to come up with some erudite answer off the cuff, and then he saved me…
With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips he told me that “smart” is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wise is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” He cackled with laugher and walked away.
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