Parents are a lot like actors, athletes and politicians in that, at some point in our career, we begin to consider our legacy.
And when we start thinking about legacy, we subsequently start to make choices that we believe will enhance our standing in the thoughts and memories of those who have meant the most to us; children, audiences, fans, and constituents, respectively.
This is commonly called going into ‘legacy mode’.
Examples of legacy mode include a sitting president approaching the end of his (or her, hopefully, someday soon) second and final term. He/She may (finally) make a more concerted push for the social-good programs that will hold them in better stead long after leaving The White House. Another common one is an athlete who is making one final farewell summer tour of away ballparks. He will become friendlier with the press than he’s been throughout the bulk of his time in the majors because, golly gee, those writers’ Hall of Fame votes might be nice to have in five year’s time.
We all want to be remembered fondly by our children (and the world at large) so maybe we start to parent differently when they reach a certain age.
We’ll start a project or begin to be more philanthropic because we suddenly realize that time is short, or at least, getting shorter, and that we’d like very much to leave behind something more meaningful than faded memories of arguing over whether it is necessary to wear a jacket when it’s 42 degrees outside or stashed soundbites of us harping about eating just-one-more-forkful-of-veggies-or-no-dessert at the dinner table.
For me, right now, I can’t stop thinking that if my first children’s picture book manuscript, a sweet linear tale of an artistic child growing up and a parent figure wishing so badly to be, and then remain, a vital part of her story, is never published, that I’ll do irreparable damage to my legacy as the doting dad of the two children who inspired the story in the first place and who make up the bulk of that lead character’s personality.
Is it time, at age so-close-to 42, with teen and tween children, for me to switch into legacy mode?
I have been thinking back on the wondrous childhoods of my two creative daughters since before they even aged out of those childhoods, and I’ve long tried, through my blog, freelance articles like the one you are reading now, and my photographs, to find ways to put those sunny memories into the world as a way of leaving a series of deep footprints in the snow that I know will someday melt away, so that we may be able to find our way back to a happier place should the skies someday darken.
That book, my first to be completed and edited over the course of many years, is something grander than all of the blog posts and family selfies put together. It is my love song to their childhoods and a dad’s legacy I want so badly to make permanent.