Why writing your stories is an important part of your legacy.
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The story goes something like this:
A young girl was at school when a storm was approaching, and all the children were sent home. Before she could get safely to her house, a tornado hit. It lifted her off the ground and she ended up hanging by the sash of her dress from a utility pole.
As she hung there waiting to be rescued, she was mostly worried her mother would be mad that she’d ruined her new dress.
It’s such a dramatic story that it’s hard to believe! And it makes me want more details—how old was the girl? Was her mother upset? How far did she have to walk? Who rescued her?
The details are gone—because the girl in the story, my grandmother, is gone. It’s a story I’ve only heard secondhand.
I wish she’d written it down somewhere! I’ve heard other wonderful stories about my grandparents, like the time my grandfather and a friend drove a Model-T across the United States. They are stories I’d love to tell my grandchildren, but the details have faded and the stories are so weak without them!
Recording our memories is the best way to ensure they will last. Luckily for grandparents, there are lots of ways to achieve this! Today we’re going to share five creative ways to leave a written legacy.
Lessons from The Repair Shop
In the spring of 2020, when the world seemed to be falling apart and I craved an escape, one of my daughters told me to watch The Repair Shop, a BBC show which documents the restoration of family heirlooms.
Have you ever seen it? It’s filmed in an idyllic workshop at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in the English countryside. People bring in all sorts of objects: lamps and paintings, butter churns and jewelry, driving gloves and toy monkeys. They tell the story of whatever it is that’s fallen into disrepair, and a team of skilled artisans brings it back to life. It’s soothing—and satisfying—to watch worn and dilapidated old objects be lovingly mended and preserved by experts.
As I watched episode after episode, over and over I heard a variation of the same words.
“It was my granny’s.”
“My granddad had it in his study.”
“It was always sitting in my grandmother’s front room.”
“I loved playing with it when I was at my grandparents.”
This revelation was always followed by,
“It brings back such memories.”
No matter what item the show guests brought in, it wasn't the object that they wanted preserved, it was the memories.
Family heirlooms are powerful ways to connect to memories, but it’s the memories that hold the value. When the customers of The Repair Shop entrust the show with their precious hand-me-downs, it’s in the hope that by restoring the object, the memories will be strengthened and extended. They want the stories about the lucky purse or the riding crop to endure. They want the bonds that are symbolized by the antique clock to be extended to the next generation. They want to honor their family by preserving the legacy of that special heirloom.
When my maternal grandparents had both passed away, my mother asked if there was anything of theirs that I wanted. I had only one request: their green leather card table. Not because it was beautiful (it was) and not because it was my favorite color (it was), but because it was a symbol of who they were to me. Playing cards was something we did together when I was a child, and though I never sat at that green table with them, I knew they played cards at it every evening at home. I knew that I would think of them every time I saw it, and that I’d tell my children and grandchildren about them and why the table was important to me.
And I have.
Make sure you are sharing the stories about the things in your home that are important to you. They are the memories that will be attached to those things, and there’s no better way to build on your family legacy.
What memories are you preserving through family heirlooms? How will you pass them on to your grandchildren? Please share in the comments!
What will you pass on to your grandchildren?
What legacy did your grandparents leave you? You might be thinking of specific things: did they leave you a financial bequest, a special piece of jewelry, a set of dishes you use for holidays? Maybe a passion for cooking, or a love of show tunes? But think some more—are there values you learned from your grandparents? Did they pass on wisdom or habits that have served you well? Or maybe there is something you saw in them that you knew you didn’t want to repeat, like prejudice or patterns of abuse?
A grandparent’s legacy can be either positive or negative—in fact, it can be both. From one of my grandmothers, I learned generosity and to appreciate life’s beautiful things. I also learned that those things were no substitute for the people in my life, something I’m not sure she ever knew. Even as a child, I understood that she wasn’t the best role model for me when it came to how to value the people you love. Truly cherishing family was a part of her legacy to me, because I saw her sometimes fail to do it. That didn’t change how I felt about her—children are especially good at forgiving faults in the grown-ups in their lives.
Today’s grandparents will have longer to form a legacy for their grandchild than our own grandparents did. We are living longer, and modern technology makes it easy for even long-distance grandparents to be part of a child’s everyday life. This gives us the opportunity to have a lasting impact on our grandchildren’s values, and makes it even more important for us to consider what that legacy will be.
Our grandchildren are learning more from us than we think. Yes, they are learning how much you love and value them when you shower them with love and affection. But they are also noticing that you say mean things about the neighbors who always park their car in front of your house and the people who voted differently than you did. They see it if you don’t respect their parents—the way you sigh about their silly rules, or roll your eyes behind your daughter-in-law’s back. Is this part of the legacy you want to leave?
As you think about what your legacy will be, think about more than your dishes and love of cooking. Take the time to consider if you are truly passing along the values and beliefs you want your grandchildren to remember you for.
Want to really ensure your legacy? Your Grand Vision, part of New Grandparent Essentials, guides you through a step-by-step process for considering and implementing your legacy. Find out more!
There's more than just money to leaving your grandchildren a financial legacy.
The following post by Skip Johnson originally appeared on Minnesota Good Age. It is shared with permission from the publisher.
Grandparents can play a special role in the lives of their grandchildren by offering their time, love, advice and emotional — as well as financial — support.
Another way grandparents can make a lasting positive difference, of course, is to help guide grandkids in their personal financial education with simple, practical tips as well as continued conversations around money, thriftiness and even investing.
If you give a check or gift of money to your grandkids for every birthday or for major holidays, you already have a starting point for personal finance discussions. You’re also in the convenient position of outranking their parents in years of financial experience. And they might be more likely to listen to you than their primary caregivers.
Indeed, statistics show that your intergenerational insights will likely be welcome. According to a 2014 study released by the financial services company TIAA-CREF, 85 percent of 1,000 young adults surveyed said they’d be open to discussing finances with their grandparents. It’s worth noting, however, that only 8 percent of the 1,000 grandparents surveyed reported talking with their grandchildren about money.
Helping your grandkids learn how to be smart and responsible about money can give them knowledge that may benefit them over their entire lifetimes.
If you have wisdom to share, you might consider some of these avenues for passing on your personal finance legacy:
Take them to the bank.
Think of this as a financial field trip that addresses the basics of cash banking. Explain the difference between checking and savings. They’ll want to know what a bank is for, how an ATM works and where the money comes from. Encourage your grandkids to open checking accounts with money from gifts, small jobs or allowances. You could also open a savings account for your grandchild to illustrate the concepts of interest and compounding.
Talk about money.
Sharing your financial values on a regular basis is a wonderful way to pass on your good habits to your grandkids. How do you handle credit cards? What’s your savings plan? Why do you have investments? When you think a grandchild is old enough to understand, bring up these subjects and share how you think about money and how you make it work for you. Be prepared for loads of questions.
A part-time job or a summer job can be a big learning experience for a kid when it comes to both spending and saving. Those first paychecks provide perfect opportunities to talk about tax withholding. Help them decide how they want to spend some earnings — and how to save some, too.
Teach investing basics.
Teenagers might be curious about how to invest in companies they interact with daily, such as Facebook/Instagram, Google or Twitter. This is the perfect time to explain why it’s important to diversify a portfolio. While discussing individual stocks, you can also talk about the benefits of mutual funds. Discuss the uncertainties of any investing and how to think about market volatility.
Inspire charitable giving.
Sound money habits also can include donating to meaningful causes. Discuss the charities you support with your time and money. Ask your grandchildren which organizations they might like to support — such as a food bank, animal shelter or church. Help them realize that financial responsibility means making the best use of money for themselves and others. If they want to give, show them how to contribute a portion of their savings.
Grandparents are uniquely positioned to give love and support in many ways to grandkids. Teaching your grandchildren practical money skills can be a very useful life skill and can lead to a happy and successful life as they grow up, which is the best gift of all.
Are you one of the many grandparents who hopes their grandchildren will grow up with a generous spirit? One way we can foster that is by creating rituals of giving. Here are three ideas from grandparents (including me!):
THE POWER OF LOOSE CHANGE
I’ve shared this story in the past, but here it is again: When our children were small, we saved our spare change all year long in a special jar. Every December, we’d count and roll the coins, then take the kids to the toy store. There, they’d each get to figure out what to buy with their share of the money we’d collected. The final step was putting those toys in the box for Toys for Tots. It was such a tangible way to show them how pennies and dimes could add up, and to let them in on the excitement of giving to a good cause. Now we look forward to doing the same with our grandchildren.
GIVE THEM A VOICE
From the time they were too young to read, we read to the four grands on holidays about causes that needed help. They had to decide which one they wanted to share any money they were gifted. As they got older, we gave them printouts telling them about certain charities and sent them into a room together to vote on which one to support that year. They learned about what percentage of their good “fortune” to share and to evaluate the different causes. Now grown, when told that part of their “gift” went to a certain charity, we get rave responses. Teaching caring needs to start early. “Storylady”
ONE FOR ME, ONE FOR YOU
Every once in a while, we take our granddaughter to choose a new book or toy. We always let her choose two: one to keep, and one to add to the giving box. When the holidays roll around, we take her along when we deliver the giving box to a local gift drive. This way, we aren’t just thinking about giving at the holidays, but all year long. “Grandpa Gene”
How do you teach your grandchildren about sharing and giving? Please share in the comments!
If you are interested, a piggy bank like the one in the photo is available here.
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Modeling generosity is a powerful lesson.
Every year on their birthdays, Grandma Bertha sent each of her grandchildren a birthday card with a single dollar bill in it. When I married one of her grandsons, I started getting a dollar on my birthday, too.
Every year on my birthday, my grandmother sent me a generous check.
I valued that dollar bill far more than my grandmother’s check. Grandma Bertha lived on a fixed income in a trailer in Texas. She didn’t have extra dollars, yet she still gave one every year to every one of her descendants, always accompanied by a note that showed she cared. It was gesture made out of love and true generosity.
Let me be clear, my grandmother’s check was also a gesture of love and generosity, and it was very much appreciated by a family on a tight budget! But my grandmother was not struggling to make ends meet. The lesson I learned from Grandma Bertha was that no matter how little you have, you can always share something.
That’s a lesson I’ve tried to teach my children, and one I hope my grandchildren will also learn. The best way to teach it is to do what Grandma Bertha did: model generosity.
Today’s guest post is by Donne Davis, founder of the GaGa Sisterhood. In it, she relates how sharing her experience as a grandmother has been important to the friendships she cherishes—both old and new.
When I was in the second grade, I joined Brownie troop 313. Our loyal troop leaders, Topaz and Bambi, showed up every Wednesday afternoon for eight years. Topaz was my best friend’s mother and went by Mary Alice when she wasn’t wearing her Brownie uniform. Bambi was Donna’s mother and her name was Nancy Glass. We always ended our meetings by singing the same round together. Topaz led one side of the circle and Bambi led the other. Our sweet young voices harmonized across the circle as we sang over and over:
Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver
and the other’s gold.
I never thought about the meaning of those lyrics when I was singing them year after year. But as I got older and understood the treasured nature of friendship, the words truly resonated with me.
I’ve always thought of my friends as those precious metals in the round — silver and gold. I love making new friends. I’m fascinated by listening to other people’s stories. It’s exciting getting to know someone new and discovering where you click with common interests and shared values.
But even more important, I nurture the friendships I already have. My friends tell me they appreciate my loyalty. I have friends I’ve known my whole life — literally. When I describe my friendship with Sandy, I tell people “we knew each other before we were born.” Our mothers were sorority sisters in college. After they each got married, they were pregnant with us at the same time. When Sandy and I were toddlers, our mothers plunked us in the same playpen while they played mahjongg together. They remained friends their entire lives. So have Sandy and I.
I met my best friend, Marilyn, in Mrs. Biggs’ first grade class. I started school a month later than the other kids because my family had just moved to a new house. Mrs. Biggs assigned Donna Glass to be my recess buddy. But when we went outside, Marilyn came over and said, “Don’t be friends with Donna, be friends with me.”
When should grandparents speak up if they are worried about their grandchild’s health or safety?
It’s normal to sometimes worry about our grandchildren. That’s what we do when there is someone we love!
But what do you do if you are truly worried about their health or safety, and you can’t decide whether to speak up? Being an interfering grandparent can carry a high price, and it may not be one you want to pay. Before you start a conversation with your grandchild’s parents, here are some things to consider.
First, take your relationship out of the equation. If this were an acquaintance’s child, would you tell them they need to make their child wear a helmet when they are on their bike? If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t say anything.
If it is yes, then you have to consider if this is an issue worth making waves about. No matter how solid your relationship with your adult children is, your criticism will be hard for them to take. While you may view speaking up as concern, telling your son you don’t think it’s safe for the kids to play in the front yard unsupervised is a criticism of his parenting choices.