As a foster child with limited knowledge about my birth parents (my father in particular) it always bothered me that I simply didn’t know much about my own heritage and family DNA. Countless nights I would lay in bed and wonder – who am I? I was blessed to be raised by Jim and Edwina Watson who were my 13th foster family. And although they did their best to provide me with the essentials in life and provided me with the love and support needed to grow into myself and succeed, the fact remained that the lack of my personal family history has always haunted me. That lost feeling I felt growing up certainly was a key reason why I wrote my best-selling book “Man Shoes” for my sons. Having suffered a small stroke many years ago I worried that something permanent may happen to me and I wanted my sons to know who I was, where I came from, the challenges I faced and the successes I achieved so that they would not lay in bed and wonder who their Dad was and in turn wonder in part who they were. “Man Shoes” certainly had the desired effect, as all three of my sons will know a great deal of my life. But with that said – life goes on – for me and for the rest of the members of my family and I often think it is a bit sad that we don’t do a better job of tracking our family history so that the joys and challenges are remembered.
When I was thinking about writing this blog I realized that Kathy and I have begun, in a very simple way, tracking some family of our family’s history. Years ago, Kathy’s Dad, Stu began measuring the height of our kids, Kathy, myself, as well as other family members, and marking each person’s height on a door jam. The kids loved to see how much they had grown each year that they returned to their grandparent’s home for a visit and invariably discussion would occur about what had happened in each child’s life over the past year since the last time their measurements were taken. It was always interesting for us to look back on the year that was and remember the history of how the family was growing and changing. It made the months that had passed so quickly slow down a bit and the highlights of the past year came back in vivid colour. In the past couple of years Kathy and I took pictures of the measurements that her dad had taken over the years and we had our own measurement board made and attached to a pillar in our kitchen. We took the time to post each person’s measurements on our board and we’ve pledged to carry on measuring family members in the years to come and with that I am sure there will be discussions on the activities in each person’s life over the past months which I think will be awesome as more and more grandchildren come into our family.
What we have done as a family is a simple way to create importance on growth, on remembering the months that have passed, and on growth (physical growth and personal growth). Our measurement board helps us to stop and smell the roses of the past year or so since the last time someone had their measurement put up on our measuring board. I think in all honesty we could take this tradition a bit further. It certainly would be easy to go online to find some facts about the past many months to remind one another of television shows, sporting events, movies, world events and so on to spur on conversations that will help each member of the family recall their past year in more vivid details. It would hurt us to start a journal that we could jot down information about each person in bullet point form as to how their past year went and what changes have occurred as they have grown physically and in life. Although I believe what Kathy and I have done is a really good thing, I can see how we could advance it even further for our family to create a simple written document that tracks some of the more important aspects of each family member and the history that we are growing together.
No matter what you do…don’t let your family history go by without some way of tracking and remembering the journey your family is on. In years to come it will be interesting for family members to remember the significant aspects of their family. And it is my bet that this tracking of family events and growth will help form lifelong bonds that allow family members to look back knowingly on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Strong bonds that will last a lifetime can be created through simple traditions of tracking family history. I never had the ability to know much about my birth parents or their extended families. It is a loss that I still feel today. Most of us don’t have time in our busy lives to take on a full family tree project – but we can all find some tool or tradition such as Kathy’s and my family measurement board to track a bit of your family history and bond your family together with love. Give it a try and maybe share some of your own ideas on how people could simply track and grow their knowledge of their family history. I look forward to reading some of the responses and ideas that are out there.
All the best!
Founder of Your Better Life