There is a story from the Old Testament of Moses who helps to free his people. He’s with them as they wander through the wilderness. But he won’t get them to where they’re going.
Through his own actions, Moses doesn’t get to the Promised Land. Moses is a great metaphor for us. It’s especially a good metaphor for the older generation.
As we get older, much of what we do we won’t benefit from. It isn’t for us. It’s for what comes and who comes after us.
When we’re younger, in our pre-parental even early parental years, much of our focus is on building our own house, our own nest egg, even our own legacy. But as our kids leave the house, and we’ve recovered form both the relief and the regret of the empty nest, we start to comes to grips with the fact that we have fewer days in front of us than we’ve had behind us. And what comes after us becomes more important…than us.
Perhaps this is why the grandmother effect (sorry, grandfathers) is so important. The grandmother can focus so much more on her grandchildren (and children) more than herself. That additional focus allows the children and grandchildren to do better than they could do without grandma…and they eventually will.
Perhaps another factor at play is neophilia, the love for the new and novel. Since I’ve become a Father, babies interest me like never before. I’m sure the same will happen when I’m a grandfather…and I’d to have a grandfather effect.
A common saying is, “Each generation wants to leave the world a little better than they found (inherited) it.” A common response to that saying is another. “Make each generation better for the world.”
That translates into two simple dictums. Treat your community and environment better than your parents treated it. Raise your children better than you were raised.
But both of these dictums are dependent upon one thing. If this one thing doesn’t improve, parenting doesn’t improve, social and environmental interaction doesn’t improve. Can you guess what it is?
Making positive changes in our environment and in our kids requires one prior step. We have to make positive changes in ourselves. If we had good teachers and good parents, they took us where they arrived faster than their own arrival. But they can’t take us further than they’ve been. That onus is on us.
I try to remind myself of this responsibility with my signature, “fF.” It’s a reminder that what comes after is greater than what came before. This can only be true if I do my part.
I have to treat my environment and my children better than all those who came before treated their environment and children. Even that isn’t enough. One final role myst be played.
As we get our children to where we were, there must be a passing of the baton, a changing of the guard. Those who were lead must now lead. And those who lead must once again follow.
My shrinking and my ultimate absence makes space for those who come after me. I must move from Father to Grandfather, offering only counsel, and looking to those who came after me to lead those who are with them and those who come after them. This is the final lesson I can teach my children so that their descension is easier than my own, making that which came after me…better than that which came before.