It was 2006; I was fourteen years old. My dad and I were in the process of landscaping a small empty area just on the rear border of our house. We already had a few beautiful pine trees planted in this area, but my mom wanted to have some separation in our yard from the neighborhood behind us. My dad and I spent most of the day digging up saplings from our front yard to transplant them into the back, where mom wanted them. By the time we finished getting all the trees ready, the sun was about an hour away from setting. We suddenly realized the immense task we now faced: We were completely booked for the next few days, and the saplings would die if we did not have them planted before the sun went down.
Our simple planting plan had now become a rescue mission. We rushed with the wheelbarrow up and down a rather large hill in our back yard time and time again. Each trip we were able to take two or three saplings. We struggled to dig holes for each sapling due to the firm soil of northern Maryland. I continued to look at the fading sunlight and think there was no chance for us to make it, but he didn’t give up which meant I couldn’t give up. The trips up the hill became harder and harder, but he didn’t give up which meant I couldn’t give up. My arms were sore from digging, but he didn’t give up which meant I couldn’t give up.
You’ll be happy to know not one sapling was left behind, that day. The sun set just as we sealed up the hole on the last of the trees. My dad and I looked at each other victoriously, for we had accomplished something which seemed pretty monumental at the time. That event left an impression on me that goes much further than my dad could have known.
For as far back as I can remember, my dad has always been the hardest worker I have ever known. He always put his effort into making sure our family could afford everything it needed. For him, this often meant: working late, going in early, working weekends, being on call, and occasionally going on business trips. Even with this workload, he still spent time with us and did a substantial amount of house/yard work.
Now that I am in the workforce, I have discovered providing for our family was not the only thing my dad was doing for us, this whole time. He instilled in me the self-discipline and persistence which I now see myself using every day at work. My father taught me how to be a man, not only with my vocation but also with my family.
Everything I know about being a father and a husband I attribute to the way I saw my father interacting with our family. I often think about all of the things my father has taught me, both through training and just my observation. Don’t get me wrong; my father made mistakes just like anyone else, but he always demonstrated that we, his family, were his main priority.
I often think about how I as a father can pass these same things on to my son. The tangible things in life may seem pretty easy: reading, playing sports, carpentry…etc. It is the immense responsibility of passing on the intangible traits which can often seem terrifying. How can a mere human-bear the responsibility of being regularly observed by someone who is going to emulate all actions? In my opinion, the answer is: if you aren’t scared of this responsibility, you are underestimating it.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you one specific solution to this issue. We are all human and will all struggle and fail, at times. I often reflect on the thought of: what will my legacy be? When I die, what will my children have to say about me at my funeral? The best advice I can give is: prioritize what you most want to pass on to your children and make an effort to demonstrate them in every aspect of your life. I will share with you the top three items on my legacy list of parental priorities. Hopefully, they will help you come up with some of your own. Disclaimer: this is a guideline I use to keep myself in check, I do not follow every one of these steps every single day. That being said, I use this list to keep myself accountable so I can try and not make the same mistake twice.
Priority #1: Faith. If there is one thing above all else that I want my children to remember about me, it is that my faith in God was the most important thing in my life. I try to impart this by going to church every Sunday, doing a nightly devotion, and praying for my family daily.
Priority #2: Love. I learned everything I know about marriage from watching my parents. Even through good times and bad, my parents always loved each other. This is something that I find truly inspiring, and know it is now my mission to pass on to my children. I try to impart this by always telling my wife I love her, never arguing in front of our son, putting her needs before mine, finding ways to surprise her and help her when she is overwhelmed.
Priority #3: Self-Discipline. As I stated earlier in this article, I owe my self-discipline to what I observed from my father. Knowing how strongly this affected me, I make a daily effort to ensure I demonstrate the same for my son. I impart this by being a dedicated Marine, always striving to better myself both professionally and personally, taking pride in my work and never advocating for doing something with “half-effort.”
When I die, above all else, I want these three things to be my legacy. What will your legacy be?
If you enjoyed my article today, please comment or send me an email, I love to hear your feedback. I will close this article with a Bible verse that I find helps to keep me focused even on my most challenging day:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2