Maria came home from Brownies a few months ago and asked us to consider our family values. She had been tasked with creating a family tree full of branches outlining our family values – what we believe is most important to our family.
We discussed it over dinner blurting out different thoughts: “we take care of each other” (dad); “we respect each other” (me); “we love each other” (Mario); “we listen to each other’s words” (Ri). Ri decided that “we listen to each other’s words” was our most important value because it encompassed all of the other values: when you listen, you take care of each other, respect each other, and love each other. Wise beyond her years.
I thought of this time together as I read the New York TImes article about creating your family mission. The article outlined a study which found that the more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. Children’s emotional health and happiness increased when they knew more of their family history.
A-ha! Jon and I had finally found a study that confirmed we did something right (I remember going back to work after RI’s birth and reading studies about moms who worked outside of the home being prone to hyperactive and obnoxious kids and bawling my eyes out). There isn’t a day that goes by that Maria and Mario aren’t begging us to tell them a story about their childhood, our childhood, our parents’ childhood. They love the story of Jon taking forever to walk home because he had to stare at all the trees or me crying my eyes out because I missed the Brady Bunch. They love hearing how Peepaw used to make furniture and Grandpa Ionno used to write stories and Grandma Lolo used to pump Ri’s legs to get her to poop and Grandma Ionno used to rock Mario to sleep and Grandma Meg used to read wise books to Ri.
The study also recommended that parents convey a sense of history by passing down traditions – the hokier the family’s tradition, the more likely it will be passed down. Oh, we got that covered, too. We have hokey, we have normal, we have in-between. We check our stockings on St. Nick’s Day, we draw pictures of what we are grateful for at the end of the day, we look for candy and toys in the back yard on Easter, we head to Kings Island every year, we have a family bash on New Year’s Eve, we buy chips and pop for the ride home from Cincy.
So, I may have hyperactive and attention-deficit prone children from my 9-5 job but at least they will have self-esteem and be able to stand up for themselves.