We have been up in Logan this past week caring for Richard’s wonderful 91-year-old mother who sleeps about 20 hours a day and retains her wonderful, sweet personality, though for the last two or three years, she can’t remember who we are or who she is. Seasons revolve, roles reverse. She took care of me in that same house on Fifth North when I was a small boy, and now we take care of her in the same rooms.
I don’t want the forgetting part to happen to me, but I do want what she has had — another really good 20-plus years beyond 65. During that autumn of her life, she created lesson plans for a national chain of preschools, wrote a remarkable history of her Swedish ancestors, managed her investments, real estate and rental properties, dabbled in poetry and art, traveled around the country and around the world, and maintained great relationships with every one of her children and grandchildren. She’s in her deep winter now, and in her lucid moments wishing to go to a better place to be with my dad, who has been gone for 50 years.
There is a certain irony in the fact that she can’t remember anything, because I used to think I was the only boy with a mother who, every time I left the house, and I do mean every time, would yell at me, “Remember who you are!” I have since learned that it is quite a common parting shot among moms, including Teddy Roosevelt’s mother.
“Remember who you are” means a lot of good things, like uphold the family name, make me proud, don’t do anything stupid, be careful, think, etc. But have you thought what it means in the eternal context? Remember who you really are — a child of God, a spiritual being having a mortal experience, a person who has taken upon himself the name of Christ, a priesthood holder, etc.
We want our children to remember those things not just so they will behave better, but so they will feel more self-worth, treat their body with respect, make good choices, be kind to others, protect themselves and their standards. We could give them continual lectures on all these points, but maybe the best way to say it really is “Remember who you are.”
But to maximize the meaning of that admonition, we have to talk about it. Find ways to communicate with your children about who they are spiritually. Family home evenings are the perfect forums for this.
One good way to get it across is a game that can be played with almost any age. It’s played by simply making a list of every correct answer they (and you) can think of to the question, “Who are you?” A player can start with his name, and can say things like “a sixth-grader” or “a swimmer” or “a redhead,” but as the list builds, the most important answers, the spiritual ones, will make their appearance. “A child of God,” “A priesthood holder,” “A spirit.”
The second step in the game is to circle the spiritual answers, each of which will lead to some kind of a discussion, especially if you ask the right questions: “How many people on the Earth know that answer?” “How important is that answer?” “How does knowing that make you feel about yourself?”
“Remembering who we are” is remarkably important on many levels, and this is not just a game for kids.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."