Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the idea of planting a legacy in parenting. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” -Nelson Henderson
Years ago, I toured a 250-year-old home while on a family vacation. The path to the house was lined with oak trees, perfectly spaced on both sides of the drive, that met in the middle to form a lush canopy. The original owner meticulously planted dozens of saplings, knowing he would never see the fruits of his labor or his vision. I was struck by this forethought of leaving a beautiful legacy for other generations.
The pace of our world today shortens our attention spans and fuels our expectations for instant gratification. We have the capabilities of a library, grocery store, bank, and movie theater (to name a few) in the palm of our hands. We can easily lose sight of the value in making a difference well beyond this week – or even this moment.
This leaves me increasingly in awe of those who have vision for the long game. Those who poured themselves into such visionary endeavors – from building gothic cathedrals to crusading for social revolutions to a career of teaching kindergartners how to read.
All of these visionaries are planting trees under whose shade they may never sit.
As such, so are parents.
We spend countless hours changing diapers, reading the same books on repeat, feeding three meals a day, reminding to share, supervising homework, and chauffeuring to extracurriculars.
We try to use these everyday activities as teaching moments (when we have the energy). We sometimes wonder if this repetitive litany of parenting makes enough of a difference – if we make enough of a difference – for our kids or for the world.
Of course, we get to see the short-term fruits of our diligence. We remind our kids 1,074 times to say “please” before they request a cup of milk. And then they finally “ask nicely” without our tired cue. We wipe a runny nose every 38 seconds throughout the duration of a cold. And then, our little one finally plucks a tissue from the box and wipes it himself.
The true legacy we leave and the trees we plant take root overs years and generations that may exceed our lifespan. Roots of kindness, responsibility, advocacy, patience, perseverance, and invention that could lead to saving or improving the lives of others, or simply creating something beautiful.
The instant gratification to which we’re accustomed is far surpassed by the enduring significance of a legacy. And the world will be all the better because of it.
“Legacy is not what I did for myself. It’s what I’m doing for the next generation.” -Vitor Belfort
In what ways are you planting a legacy through your everyday parenting?