Flunking Family History
by Michael R. Boyter
If someone were to give your children a "test" that
covers many of the details of your life, and included questions about
their own family's history, how do you think they'd do?
If your children are school-aged, no doubt, they are
inundated with tests of all kinds. When they fail those tests, or do
horribly on them, we are often quick to blame the school and the teacher.
After a number of years of living (studying) in the
same home with you, you'd figure that they'd know a lot about your life,
the lives of their grandparents and more.
In this scenario, the home is the school and we, the
parents, are the teachers. I fear that, when it comes to communicating
significant family history and why they are significant, many of us may
not be receiving as good of a grade as we would hope for.
Believe me, it's not that we don't want to teach our
children about these things, but in today's hectic lifestyle, the
traditional opportunities to share these stories and memories may be
- Hectic modern family schedules, especially when both
parents work, may curtail time spent talking around the family dinner
- Full-blown family reunions and get togethers are less frequent due to
the distances we live from other family members.
- Distractions, such as, non-stop cable television, computers, video games
and more reduce the actual time that we spend talking with each other.
- Increases in extracurricular school and community activities absorb
family time as well.
In past, years I've assisted individuals, ages 17-27,
with background investigation paperwork. For this, some family
information was required on the application.
I would estimate that nine times out of ten, these
individuals would have to call someone to be reminded of their parent's
birth dates and their grandparent's full names. It always made me wonder.
What else didn't they know about their own family?
Here are some sample test questions. How would your
children do? How would you do, if given the same questions about your
parents and grandparents?
-Describe how, when and where your parents met? And
-What would your parents say were the 3 most
influential people and events they experienced during their childhood? How
were they influential?
-What did your parents want to be, when they grew up?
-What kind of students were your parents?
-What would your parents, individually and
collectively, consider their best decisions made? Which have been their
most regrettable decisions?
-Who is the oldest member of the family that your
parents (or grandparents) can remember, while growing up? What is known
of them by the family?
Well, how do you believe your children would have
done? How well could you have answered those same questions about your
No one has been given a guarantee that they'll live to
be old and gray. It really makes one stop and think, when confronted with
this sobering reality.
"If I didn't live past tomorrow."
"Have I conveyed everything about my life, that I've
intend to, to my children? If not, what am I waiting for?"
"Have I shared with them the hard-learned lessons I've
learned about life? Or am I just going to let them figure it all out on
"Have I passed on all the great family stories and
memories that were told to me by my parents?"
"Will my children know, or will they someday understand
the happenings in my life that."
.Cause me to think the way I do?
.Make me believe the way I do?
.Make me act the way I do?
.Cause me to celebrate the things that I do?
.Help me make the decisions that I do?
.Worry about things like I do.etc?
Then these questions
- What have I taught my kids, so far, that will impact
them the rest of their lives?
- What have I NOT taught them that will impact them the
rest of their lives?
- What will they remember most about me?
One day, this test will actually be given to your
children. It will come, most likely, from the sweet innocent voice of
your grandchild or great grandchild. They will have questions about you.
Questions that will help them understand who they are and how they fit
into the family, historically.
Will your child have the right answers to give them?
Will they have an answer at all?
Nothing beats an open book test. When you keep a
journal or create a record of your life, the test your child faces
someday, will indeed, and thankfully, be an open book test.
Won't you get started today?
©Michael R. Boyter
Michael R. Boyter is the author of the popular e-book Memorygrabber,
the 150 page, downloadable, lifestory workbook that combines
questions, memory prompts, list-making, games, activities and a walk
down memory lane to help you finally tell your story. It's time!