There are certain sayings from childhood, from family, that linger. They are part of the fabric of our home – words that mark the lessons I learned as a child, and words that I want to pass on to my children. Some are funny, some are sweet, some are just plain useful.
Since Father’s Day, I have been thinking a lot about dads and family histories. My dad passed away from lung cancer when I was twenty-two. He saw me graduate college, but he wasn’t there when I got married and when I had my children. And now that my kids are growing older, there are some days I feel his loss so much. But I also see – and hear – his distinct imprint on my family in our family phrases.
My dad had a corny sense of humor and several catch phrases: “Calm, cool, and collected.” “Piece of cake.” My favorite was “What a team!” That was his go-to phrase for our family. Whenever we accomplished anything – from cleaning our rooms to performing in the high school musical, we would hear “What a team!” He was an encourager at heart.
Those words still mean something because I say them to my kids all the time. And my husband and I have embraced this vision for teamwork. Whenever anyone asks me for marital advice (it doesn’t happen often), I usually say, “Don’t forget that you are on the same team. Your spouse is not against you.” I love the idea that my little family is a team, and I have my dad (and mom) to thank for casting that vision. I hope that my kids will grow up saying “What a team!” too.
Another statement I got from my dad: “Go outside and get your exercise.” He used to say that to me and my brothers all the time. I have never been sporty – I preferred to spend my free time drawing or reading, but my dad constantly encouraged us to get some fresh air. I still prefer to do things indoors, but I hear my dad when I tell my kids to get out of the house and run around.
Over the years we’ve been married, I have co-opted some of my husband’s remembered words and habits from growing up. One of our most repeated – and intensely practical – phrases comes from my father-in-law, Papa.
One of my children (I’m not naming names) is notorious for not being able to find anything – a shoe, a shirt, the book for tomorrow’s book report. The child just looks blankly around and concludes that the item is gone forever. This child has even offered to pay us to find missing items. But, in an effort to build character – instead of fatten our bank accounts – we channel my father-in-law. When you are looking for something, don’t just look at the surface: “Move things around!”
When it’s time for potty training, I recall my grandmother’s embroidered wall hangings in the bathroom: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.” “No job is finished ’til the paperwork is done.” Words to live by. 🙂
It’s funny how often I hear my dad – or my mom – or my in-laws – in my parenting. It reminds me to be careful of my words, that what I say today might be remembered long after my kids have grown up and moved away.
What words or sayings has your family passed on from one generation to the next?