Remember Where You Come From

“Whenever any of us left the house, my mother always made us stop at the door where she would lay her hand on top of our head and deliver this benediction.  ‘God loves you. I love you. Remember where you come from.'”  from A Matter of Time

Although my mother never said those exact words to me, they were implied in everything she taught me during my growing up years.  As I navigated the uneasy steps of first friendships, eased my way into the classroom, and finally took my place in the “real” world, I was always mindful of my  how much I was loved and how important I was to the family. I was also keenly aware of the expectations that were placed upon me.  Those expectations included concrete things like “work hard,” “obey the rules,” “do well in school,” but also “be loyal to your family,” “be kind to others” and “don’t be selfish.”  Those were the values my family lived by.  That was where I came from.

As I ponder becoming a grandmother and helping my grandson grow up in such a complex and fragmented world, I think about how important it is for children to know where they come from, how vital that they have a sense of belonging in their family, their culture, their neighborhood, their faith.

We teach that by example, like my parents did, by living the values you want them to internalize and emulate.  But it doesn’t hurt to remind them so many words, either.  In the book (and in the movie) The Help, Aibilene makes it a point to repeat these words every morning to Mae Mobley, the little girl she cares for whose own mother virtually ignores her. “You a smart girl. You a kind girl, Mae Mobley.”  In this simple, direct, and loving way, she reinforces the child’s sense of self worth but also infers that these are desirable attributes and valuable characteristics. Her words become a poignant litany of love, much like the directive I quoted at the beginning of the post.

I definitely grew up with a sense of blessing – of being a blessing to the people in my family who loved and cherished me, and of having been blessed with good health and intelligence and the freedom to make the best use of my gifts.  Sometimes, even when parents genuinely feel all those things, they’re incapable of expressing those emotions directly or indirectly and simply aren’t successful at conveying that message to their children. Occasionally, there is a sense of disconnect between a parent and child, that, despite everyone’s best efforts, prevents a child from developing that sense of belonging to something larger than himself. In times like those, a child needs to look outside the family unit to find that place he belongs. Sometimes it might be with a friend, or at school or church. Sometimes, sadly, they never find it at all, and wander through life rootless and insecure.

I know I was blessed to come from a place where family was held in high esteem, where happiness was eagerly sought after, where my dreams were acknowledged and honored, where the world was laid at my feet for the taking, where every effort was made to insure my safety and security.

That’s the world I want to give my grandson. That’s where I want him to come from.

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15 thoughts on “Remember Where You Come From

  1. There is something so fundamentally true about what you say. With a world that feels increasingly fragmented and unsafe (at least to me) I believe it is more important than ever to give our children, and grandchildren, a sense of self and belonging that comes from a set of values that are grounded in reality rather than based on the need to give endless over-bloated encouragement. (I really cannot bear over-confident kids who think they are great and that they don’t have to do the work. Humbleness is sadly a much underrated value these days.) It is so nice to see how much loving thought you are giving to the world your grandson will come from, he is a lucky boy!

    • I agree, you have to be careful that teaching good self-esteem doesn’t turn into teaching selfishness and overconfidence. There is an alarming sense of entitlement in lots of today’s children that won’t do them any good in the long term.

  2. As I read your words I was reminded of how rare these values are today. I did not have a loving family but I was expected to follow many guidelines. Perfection was expected and when I was not performing up to par I was punished. Needless to say I am still not perfect nor do I expect my children to be perfect either. My wife and I attempt to provide a loving environment and we have done what we can to live our faith in front of them. As teenagers they act as if they could give a flip less about us demonstrating our love for them by giving them hugs. They are doing all they can to break free of the bonds of parents except for needing us for food and shelter. LOL…
    Your grandson will be blessed to have you as his grandmother. God bless and keep you in these endeavors.

  3. You spoke the truth about the values every child needs, we adults need to take the time to instill them and lead by example. It can be our children, grandchildren or any young person that we can provide guidance for. They are simple, straight forward values and we need to be willing to put them out there for folks to see, support one another in these values and we can make a difference.

    I know your grandchild will be the recipient of all these, a lucky child.

    • It’s true that all of us adults can be good examples for children in our lives, whether they’re our own or someone else’s! Sometimes people forget that children need good solid support and love more than expensive toys or all kinds of lessons and activities.

  4. And you will give your grandson that — more important that any other gift from your hand. Like you, I grew up “blessed,” and I had parents who helped me realize I could do or be what I wanted or needed to be. And they never said it would be easy — but it was possible. That’s such a gift — to know yourself, to know where you came from. A lovely post. A lucky future grandson.

  5. This is my new favorite post of yours. I was also raised believing I was a blessing, because I was told I was. And while my home life wasn’t “perfect” I also had the blessing of loving adults outside of my family who reminded me of my value.

    • Angie, I know for sure that your boys (and your new baby!) are blessed by your love. It shines through every word you write about them and every photo you take 🙂

  6. I think one of the great secondary issues is, how do we internalize that sense of being a blessing and being blessed, and how do we learn to use “where we’ve come from” as a jumping-off point for “where we’re going”?

    There comes a time when we have to be able to function without encouragement and support from external sources. That’s when we start to learn something about how we were shaped in the early years!

  7. How nice it is to see you looking forward to what you will offer your grandchild, and it is so like you that your thoughts are about the values and attributes you wish to pass on to him. Our world is changing so fast, but some things never change. We all need to be valued and heard and loved. Your little one is very lucky.

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