I raised my children in a blur. I was in my early twenties when they were born and divorced before they started school. I completed college, launched a career and elbowed my way up the career ladder--rung by rung--as a single mother. Needless to say, transferring values was the last thing on my mind, followed closely by teachable moments. Survival was the order of the day.
Flash forward three decades to the day my first grandchild was born. I was "living the dream" in Colorado and had signed up for a Mindfulness Hike along Clear Creek in Golden, Colorado, the pure water source for Coors beer. A yoga teacher in flowing natural fibers, who instructed us to choose a comfortable rock near the creek and meditate on an intention for our walk, led the hike.
I'm a woman of action, so sitting still on a rock with my eyes closed is a challenge. I was fidgety, wondering how long we were going to do this. Suddenly the tinkling sound of the water flowing over rocks calmed me, and then my intention appeared. I would infuse a love of nature and adventure into my granddaughter's life. I would be the outdoorsy antithesis to her indoorsy parents, who sit on upholstered furniture in air-conditioned rooms looking at their screens all day.
Harper's parents are cautious, so I sow seeds of adventure. They're protective, but I find little ways to help her take age-appropriate risks to increase her confidence. I'm not alone. When asked, "What's most important to pass on to the next generation?" 74% of respondents say "values and life lessons."1 Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer interviewed more than 1,200 Americans for the Legacy Project and found that many elders see transmitting values and core principles as their most important legacy.
For me, I look forward to when Harper is old enough to understand when I sit her down and explain that my life has been full and meaningful because I've challenged myself to pursue activities and adventures even when hesitant or completely terrified, and that these experiences have developed a confidence in myself and honed my ability to improvise. They have taught me that the world is generally a safe place.
I also plan to take Harper traveling with me and show her first-hand all the beautiful connections, perspectives and lessons that are gained when traveling. I recently ventured to New Zealand with Backroads, hiking through and exploring a new and beautiful region and culture, and Harper was regularly on my mind as I resolved to one day share this type of experience with her.
I've begun saving my Backroads Family Trip catalogs because they're too beautiful to throw away. We look at the pictures together and talk about where we will go and what we will do. I expand the discussion with stories of what other children have seen and done on safari in Africa, hiking in Yosemite, riding a bike in Thailand. I make up these stories, but isn't that what we've always done to entertain and educate children?
Karl Pillemer advises us to "communicate our values to our children and bring them up to appreciate having very clear principles for living." The values I wish to pass to my granddaughter, in addition to a love of the outdoors and unique experiences, are courage, resilience and an appreciation for the magic of the unexpected. Sharing adventure travel with her is an ideal way to share my passions and nurture those values, with the additional benefits of the fun we will have and the memories we will create.
So how about you? What values would you like to share with your children and grandchildren? How can you do this in a way that seeds a legacy into their lives? What simple and easy thing can you do today to start the process?