We have spent some time in the past few weeks helping our son who lost his job last month. All of which has me pondering an old and very painful subject: treating your children well when you were not treated well by your own parents.
I think it is a common theme for adults who were abused as children. The deep conflict and desire to do better for my own children was a continuing internal conflict as they grew–it really peaked when they were teenagers. As I parented them through those rebellious times I realized, for the first time, just how little may parents had cared about me. There were waves of anger then. And pain. And confusion. Along with pointed questions to which I wasn’t sure I knew the answers. Can I trust myself to be a good parent to my children when I don’t even know what that looks like?
All I knew, and still know, is that I WANT to be able to give my children what I never had, myself. At this stage they are grown. But there are still thousands of things to consider. Millions of moments I can do good for them and to them. Like planning out their inheritance. And giving some of it to them now, if they need it.
Proverbs 13:22 (KJV) A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children: but the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
My parents received a real estate inheritance from their parents. However, I won’t be receiving anything from my parents. I was already written out of their estate years ago. The way that unfolded is so unbelievably strange that were I to write out any of the actual details, even if I were to fictionalize them, it would most assuredly give away my identity.
I was ok with that (not receiving any inheritance). While I adore money because you can’t travel far or buy new shoes without it; I don’t really care about it. Besides, all the money in the world wouldn’t have made up for the fact that had I received an inheritance from them I would have been bound to abusive people who think it their right to opine and control—and all the more so if they once gave you something which was (sort of) valuable.
In terms of wisdom passed down: love, traditions, etc. there isn’t much to speak of there either.
My spouse also did not receive an inheritance. Although, on both sides, there was/is some wealth to go around. The strings and forever-type-of-attachments which went along with receiving the inheritance we might have received; were something to which we both said:
No. Thank. You.
As for us, we were careful to set up a plan for after our death which will treat our children as well as we can; with as few strings as possible. This involved a few moments where we went against professional advice.
So be it.
We will be dead. Who cares. Furthermore, if the kids blow through what we were able to accumulate through a few decades of business ownership–well, they will ‘have one heck of a story to tell’. Therefore a part of me just wanted to leave the whole thing to the courts and fate to decide.
But there’s that proverb I love. The one about the good man who leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.
What does a good woman look like? She is wise. Loving. Prudent. She takes good care of her affairs. She gives her children freedom, and choices. She does not bind them up with strings, expectations, and obligations. She allows them to fail. She doesn’t turn her back on them when they do.
A good father shows up when his children need help. When they lose a job or get in trouble with the law. Without too much judgment. And cleans their garage and buys them a snowblower and chips the ice from their driveway, and then takes them out for sushi that he doesn’t even like to eat.
My husband is a good father. Very good.
Paraphrasing an old saying about good boundaries: a good father (and/or mother) doesn’t carry their backpack for them when they can carry it themselves. But good parents DO help push the bigger boulders out of the way.
Oh, to have had some help with the boulders in my path…sigh…
Which takes some extra money. And time. And energy. And where do you get all those resources; especially when you yourself started life with a negative balance? When you are still recovering from pushing your own boulders all by yourself??? Worse than no inheritance, you received debt upon debt wrapped around your neck like the noose of a slave?
If I let myself ‘go there’ I’d be ticked for days. Feeling sorry for myself; and with a great deal of ‘right’ to go there, too. It would be just for me to do it. But I am too exhausted for it. I know that going there will deplete me of further reserves I don’t have. So I am choosing to see this part of my life as a miracle instead of a pout moment.
Because according to the proverb — the sinner’s wealth goes to those who are just. So maybe God saw to it that we cared about things like justice and truth and so He made sure that the negative numbers we received from our parents would be filled to overflowing in our lifetime.
Even though I am not sure I trust myself to do good to my children; apparently God does trust me to do just that. Because I now have enough holdings to give my children a real inheritance; that they can then pass on to theirs.
I just hope that it isn’t merely finances that get passed along. I hope that there is also plenty of faith and love and wisdom and tradition and that all little and big things we did for ours (that were never done for us) are both appreciated and imitated again and again…to start from less than nothing and to be able to give an inheritance, both now and later… A good one… With nothing attached but love…Well, when I view it that way — I am ready to push more boulders out of the way.