Christopher Hitchens, well known intellectual, author, and atheist was mentioned on twitter recently. He has esophageal cancer and his prognosis is not good. Wanting to learn a bit more, I googled him and found a March 6, 2011, interview he gave on 60 minutes. Of that 12 minute talk, the part that reverberated in my head was the following:
His father was a naval officer, and his mother was the first real splash of color in an otherwise drab existence. She told him the only unforgivable sin was to be boring, and he has rarely committed it. She aspired for him to go to Oxford and become a proper English gentleman - and one of those wishes came true. (March 6, 2011 CBS 60 Minutes)
Christopher Hitchens remembered something his mom had told him. And it sounds like he took it seriously. Now I'm not putting all of who Christopher Hitchens turned out to be on his mom's shoulders - or on those words. But just hearing that, reading that, made me ask myself, "What words of mine reverberate (or will reverberate) in my kids' heads?
I immediately winced because I knew I could predict at least one statement they would say if I asked them the "what words reverberate" question. I did summon the courage a couple of days ago to do just that. I relayed this story about Hitchens and then asked, "Ok, now - and remember, be nice - what would you say I'm known for saying a lot? Pretend you are older, and you have kids. Finish the following statement: My mom used to always say _______."
It's funny, but only one of them voiced my predicted, dreaded answer. Elizabeth immediately echoed what she'd frequently heard come from my mouth, "Have you done your chore today?" I wince again typing that. But, I knew it would come up, because I ask it almost every day. Obviously, I need a different system of accountability in place. Threatening repeating parents are never winsome.(I am taking notes....)
Elizabeth did follow quickly with, "and, Hold a high head and a booming tail and go on!" I'm kind of glad about that one, though, because it's straight from my mom's mouth and it helped me through a million awkward moments. Nervous? Not sure what to do, but you have to do something? No getting out of an awkward situation? Hold a high head and a booming tail and go on. Thanks, Mom. Your grandkids are hearing your voice through me.
Hannah, sweet thing, says she hears me saying, "Rise and Shine!" And, surprisingly, she said that without a hint of bitterness at me being the one who daily disturbed her slumber. This made me feel like she was glad my voice was the first one she heard most days.
Faith, who I asked as quickly as I could because, as usual, she was running in the house to get something she needed before she went to the next place she was going. "Many hands make light work!" And with that, Whoosh! She was gone. I guess she figured that comment needed no explanation. And, it really didn't - but I am noticing a bit of a theme here...
Then Mary Grace chimed in. Hers is the only one that I almost want to take issue with. She said, "You are always asking me, 'Mary, will you take the dog out?'" I have to believe she was feeling especially put upon about this chore the day I asked this. Please, let this not be my legacy!
The boys' answer reflects what some may say is typical for males. My two have issues with misplacing, well, everything. So it was no surprise when they answered my question with the question that they know they'll hear from me the minute they tell me they've lost something. "Where is the last place you absolutely, for sure, remember having it?" Ok, I do think they will find this question useful the rest of their lives. It's the starting question they'll use as they retrace their steps to find the lost object de jour.
This was an interesting exercise for me - and telling. And surprising. And so very... everyday. I think I expected them to say something a little more profound. But we live in the very everyday, don't we? And I think I'm forgetting how profound everyday and the everyday really is.
Will these statements, given by my kids at their still young ages, be my signature statements in their minds? I guess time will tell. I am glad to have this post that chronicles what they were thinking in May 2011. And this post has most definitely made me do some more thinking. Thinking about what I'm saying, because, contrary to what I think a lot of the time, my kids are listening.