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Ask Mr. Papa: Why is it important to tell your children the story of your life |

Dear Mr. Papa: My mother passed away several years ago and my father suffers from dementia. They were great parents and are definitely role models for me as I am the father of my own children (ages 7, 12 and 16). The problem is, when my kids ask me questions about their grandparents, I barely have answers. Although both of my parents have been very involved in all aspects of my life including school, sports, music, etc., they hardly ever told me anything about their own life, especially when they were children. I have so many questions and it makes me incredibly sad – and a little angry – to realize that I will never be able to get answers. I don’t want to make the same mistake my parents made. Is there a way to make sure my kids get to know me after I’m gone?

A: Thank you for such a thoughtful question. Although both of my parents are, thankfully, still alive, I have been thinking about this specific thing for some time, and I know there are plenty more like us. As parents (and especially dads), when we talk about providing for our children, the discussions tend to focus on the financial aspects – insurance, education savings, etc. – and we are neglecting the type of intangible assets you mentioned. But giving our children the knowledge of who we are, our life experiences, our triumphs, our failures, our family history and our personal philosophy is just as important a gift as money. Maybe even more.

Just think of all the knowledge we have about our children: we know how much they weighed when they were born, when they turned around, when they took their first steps, the name of their favorite stuffed animal, who their friends are, what size of shoes they wear, whether they wet the bed or not, who their favorite (and least favorite) teachers are, what they like to read, the troubles they found themselves in and the story behind each scar (real or imaginary).

But what do our children know about us? Probably not that much. And this is a mistake. By not telling them about us – where we came from and how we came to be who we are – we are doing them a huge disservice. At the very least, our stories can bring us closer together. Stories let them know that we don’t just tell them about life, but that we have actually lived it, that we have had similar experiences to theirs and that we truly understand them.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about good times to learn or being a good role model. There is certainly a place for both, but that’s not it. It’s just about introducing ourselves and our story to our children. The first step towards this goal is to remember our stories. What was life like when you were growing up? What were your first memories? What were your favorite subjects at school? How did you feel at the end of your first romantic relationship?

Kids love these stories, especially the ones where you aren’t perfect. Mine, for example, always likes to hear about the time I got caught shoplifting in third grade, the many times I got my butt banged in the principal’s office as punishment. for various misdeeds, or the time I was detained and questioned by the KGB traveling to the then Soviet Union at the age of 19.

Write as many of your stories as you can think of, or make audio or video recordings. You might even want to start a blog. And remember, it’s not always about the past. The experiences you are having right now – things as mundane as what you’ve been doing at work today – are all part of your living legacy.

(Read Armin Brott’s blog on, follow him on Twitter @mrdad, or send an email to [email protected])

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Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.