My grandfather was a polygamist.
Unfortunately he didn’t fess up to the other life he was leading while married to my Grandmother.
And honestly nobody would have been the wiser as his passing was decades ago.
At some point when my Dad was little my Grandmother got the nerve to leave his alcoholism and abuse. He eventually remarried. We just didn’t know it was actually to at least wife number four.
Or was it five?
If it weren’t for me dabbling into an online ancestry site, we wouldn’t have known about the marriage licenses from different states. Nothing was automated to catch serial spouses back in the day. And thanks to my short hobby of ancestry backdating, we wouldn’t have known that my only child Dad actually had half siblings.
Since then my family has demanded I find another hobby!
Sometimes I still wonder if there were more skeletons to find, but honestly it was getting a little too “Lifetime Movie” real for even curious me.
We truly wouldn’t be surprised at what else I uncovered as my grandfather wasn’t a decent man.
He’s not a man who was missed when he died.
He is not a man who is missed now.
Let those words sink in.
Now my mom’s mother was the only grandparent living when I was born. My Grandma has been gone 21 years. There’s an old Kodak photo in my Bible of her having her morning coffee with powdered donuts while jotting down a grocery list in short hand. It’s peaceful. Just like her.
My Grandma taught me how to swim, pushed me to get an advanced degree, hammered into my head the importance of girlfriends. She prided herself on always having painted nails yet she could play any card game for the win. At night she smelled of Pond’s Cold Cream and when I hear Ava Maria I have a Pavlovian response to light a candle in her memory.
I desperately wish I had five minutes to introduce her to my kids.
She’s been gone almost 8,000 days and I’ve missed her every single one of those days.
Let those words sink in friends.
So when the news broke about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and his “boys will be boys” night out in Rio I was intrigued. Not with the various story accounts or even the disturbing blueish hair he was sporting. What really hit me was that nobody seemed to stand up in his defense and say “that doesn’t sound like Ryan at all.” And not the partying piece – I mean the man did have a frat boy rep thanks to a show called “What Would Ryan Do” as well as infamous dude-esque interviews since his last Olympic debut.
When the holes in the story were leaked so Ryan had to backtrack on details, we never heard people speak to his history of integrity. And maybe it was the reality show that poisoned the well of public opinion – or maybe it was the really awful hair color choice. Out the gate we all shrugged and posted what an idiot he was.
His legacy for the ages was already etched in the wall of public opinion. Nobody seemed to doubt that Ryan was either making up a story, too intoxicated to know the difference or such a “mimbo” (i.e. male bimbo) he couldn’t tell a lie from the truth. Then after the most painful interview ever with Matt Lauer displaying no remorse or true accountability he quickly became great joke material for light night television and Facebook memes.
It horrifies me to think decades down the road when I’m long gone future family members could easily sloff off scandalous accusations about me without blinking an eye.
That’s what we did with my grandfather. Our family didn’t doubt for a second. We simply shrugged and agreed he was such a jerk.
When it comes to other family members do I know details beyond names? Not really. I couldn’t tell you what my great-aunt’s favorite meal was or the color of my great-grandmother’s eyes. What I do know is that those two women I never met had great character. Their personality traits are handed down in our family stories of resolve and pressing on through hard times. They are some of the heroines responsible for how I got here. Their legacies aren’t tarnished because their reputations outlived them.
So when your kid’s kid’s kids play the age old game of “what to name the baby” and consider family names, how will they think about you as they look through names of ancestors?
How will your name be remembered?
What is the legacy you are weaving in the memories of your children right now?
Well as if you don’t have enough on your plate just surviving in a day to day mode with little ones, work, errands, spouses and life in general I’ve thrown this at you.
But no worries!
Come on Mommas, you know I’m gonna help my girls out. So I’ve jotted down a few ideas to spark some thought:
1. Start talking about integrity early on with your children. Why does trusting their word matter? Why is it important they trust you? Kids love stories about when we were kids and messed up – especially if there’s great punishment involved! But especially in this age of social media where folks can twist a story and well known figures seem to constantly get away with lying make it a priority to understand why being truthful matters. We use the Peter and the Wolf story a lot for the little ones. My oldest now understands the concept if you have nothing in your possession you always have your word so guard it. Find the words that unlock their ears to listen and their hearts to hold true.
2. When you’ve innocently “gotten away” with something, do the right thing. Little eyes are always watching and as frustrating as it is to load the cart back up with kids to take a receipt inside and show where you weren’t charged for an item in your grocery bags they take notice. Getting the wrong change back unbeknownst to the waiter and it’s in your favor? Speak up. It’s a learning opportunity for your children to see what doing the right thing looks like as well as part of the story they are crafting about your character in their little minds.
3. Keep your word in the small things too. The big things are easy – yes I’ll be there to pick you up from school. Primarily because it’s state law I come get you so that’s an easy one. In the small things such as “let momma finish this load of laundry then I’ll come play with you” or “yes I’ll sit down and read with you in just a minute.” Moms are super busy barely getting the basics done so stopping to play with your little one might feel more like a burden then a blessing. Don’t appease them with what they want to hear knowing you won’t hold up your end of the deal. Beyond poking holes in their trust for your word, you’re teaching them how to maneuver in this world as people pleasers.
4. Omit the use of “little white lie.” Growing up this was not an excuse or even a thing. Pretty much in line with “you can’t be a little pregnant, you either are or you aren’t” then it’s either a truth or not. Letting your kids see you lie to “help them out” is no help at all. Covering up for them at the front door saying they aren’t home because they don’t want to play with the kid who rang the doorbell is showing them manipulation on top of lying. And the same goes for moms. If you don’t want to do a playdate learn to say “that really doesn’t work for us right now” instead of coming up with a whole family reunion story your kids – who are always listening – know is not true.
So is it too late for anyone to be seen in a better light? I don’t believe so, although research will show that for every bad interaction with someone it takes another five to seven positive interactions to erase the negative perception of their character. For Southerners I believe that to be another 105 to 107 interactions as we like to hold onto our judgement! However if you need to tweak a few character traits or change a few behavior patterns guess what? Little minds are the most forgiving.
What is the legacy you are weaving into their memories right now?
Will future generations miss you or diss you?
Your move Momma.