Building a Rich Legacy

I’ve been thinking about legacy lately. Bea is at an age where it feels like what we do and how we parent matters a lot more. She’s starting to remember things and will most likely start keeping memories of this time in her life. What do I want her to remember? What is our family’s legacy – not just our small family but one that has been passed down through generations.

Here are some things that come to mind that my grandparents did with my parents, that my parents did with me, and that I am doing with the girls. (I also included one from Frank, since he’s a key player in this whole legacy building adventure.)

Love of Reading & Learning

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Me and my dad’s dad

When my grandparents moved out of their home of 45 years, we packed boxes and boxes and boxes of books. My grandfather loved reading hardcover books. Some were classics, some were the latest John Grisham. Many were Christian, many were novels. Every single room in their home had shelves of books. I loved curling up next to him and listening to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Amelia Bedilia, Miss Know-it-All, and so many more. I have pictures of all of my grandparents reading to me, which I treasure. When we took a photo of Bea reading with my dad, I remember noting the significance of this family treasure being passed along.

Now, in our home, we fill it with books. Most rooms have bookshelves and if they done, books are stacked on surfaces. Even with crammed shelves in their bedrooms and playroom, the library is a favorite spot for the girls. Even Elle insists on picking her own book when we visit. I am grateful for this love of reading – that it is our family norm and an ingrained part of our family’s culture.

Financial Awareness
Before Dave Ramsey wrote about his envelope system, my parents taught me to separate my allowance into categories of spend, save, and give. I remember the thrill of opening my first savings account and putting money aside. These lessons stayed with me into my teenage years, when I was able to pay for part of my first overseas experience with money I had saved to the way in which we budget and spend our money intentionally.

We opened Bea’s first savings account last year and she was so excited to sign her own name! About six months or so after we opened it, she asked if we could withdraw some money. When I asked why, she had a specific book in mind that she wanted to buy. I love that she already has an understanding of saving money for something you want. She also saves up her piggy bank to give to the Museum of Nature and Science’s saber tooth tiger.

I know we’ll have to go deeper one day, but for now, I’m glad that what my parents learned and taught me is being passed onto our kids.

Gardening
I could put this one for mine as well, but when I asked Frank about a legacy from his grandparents, he told me about his PopPop’s garden. He remembers the boxes filled with tomatoes and peppers and other veggies. Boxes that remain at the house to this day. When Frank’s aunt sent us a stack of old family photos, many were pictures of his dad’s garden – packed tight with the same veggies his grandfather had planted.

We have always had a backyard garden but doing it with kids adds a new level to the experience. Bea loves going out to collect zucchini and tomatoes and both girls learned at a young age that tomatoes off the vine are the best. This year we were able to harvest some apples off our small tree, and it was so fun to make connections between small seeds and the snacks we were eating.

Awareness Through Travel
My brother and I were the same age as Bea and Elle are right now when my parents moved us to Germany. I always knew that move took a lot of courage but now I have a whole new appreciation for it. I link my own love of travel and exploration to those early years of navigating kindergarten in a foreign country.

Though we haven’t taken any international trips with the girls, we want to one day soon. And in the meantime, we are intentional with our family vacations. Where do we want to go that reflect our family’s priorities? How do we use our time off to help build our own values? From National Parks to historic sites in Philadelphia, we take time to recognize the rich natural and cultural history of America.

Generosity
Both sets of my grandparents were known for their generosity. From time and skill to money and objects, my grandparents lived life with open hands and care for their neighbors. My parents live the same way. I remember watching my mom or dad sit at the dining room table, writing checks to various organizations each month. No matter our own financial situation, giving was a priority. So, from a young age, I learned to set aside a portion of my own money to give.

Now, Bea always asks for a dollar to put in the red offering bag at church. Though we do most of our giving online, we talk with Bea about where we give and why. I want this conversation to be one our girls remember having – one that helps shape their view of the world. We often can’t change policies so easily as we can support the organizations we most believe in. So, we use our dollars to vote and to support life-changing work.

What are your top priorities when you think about your family’s culture? What are some things that your grandparents did that affect the way you view the world today?

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