Leave More Than a Financial Legacy - The 5 Reasons Why Your Stories Should Also be Inherited
7 min read
We all hope to leave a positive and loving legacy for our children.
For many, that means ensuring our will and estate is in order, something that’s important at any age. Others think about providing a financial inheritance.
But a heritage of memories to cherish is also a beautiful gift to leave your kids. The stories of your parents and family, your life before you had kids, and the time spent raising your children are all remembrances that are important to capture for future generations.
When you have children, and eventually grandchildren, you are guaranteed to leave a legacy. There’s no choice in the matter. The choice is in what kind of legacy you leave behind.
Let’s look at why it’s important to leave more than a financial legacy, and the reasons your stories should also be inherited.
1. Your Children Will Appreciate It Later
When you’re in the early years of parenting, the last thing you’re thinking about is sharing a family history with your new baby. The whirlwind of caring for your child and capturing the memories of their childhood is top of mind. And your kids likely won’t understand the importance of the past as they are growing up.
But as your children become adults, it’s important they understand where they came from. Don’t wait until it’s too late and those stories are lost.
Don’t you have a relative you wish you’d spent more time learning about? I do. From grandparents who lived through significant events like the war, to getting your aunt to sing that funny song one more time, to the neighbour who used to babysit, there’s a good chance we all have someone we wish we could talk to again.
If you wait to capture those moments, it may be too late. Dementia, illness, or sudden death can create regret for the memories weren’t preserved when you had the chance. It’s hard to consider that one day you may not be able to tell those tales and document your own life.
Your children may not realize it now, but one day they will cherish the ability to learn more about you, as well as the great-grandparents they never knew, the uncle they loved to visit, and of course their own parents and siblings.
2. Your Children Need to Know Their Family
The stories your children should know aren’t just about you and your life. It includes the stories of your parents - their grandparents.
That’s true whether or not your kids spend a lot of time with their grandparents.
For many, our lifestyles have changed as the world has modernized. There was a time when people raised their kids with the help of grandparents who lived close by. Now, many families live far apart, and may only see each other occasionally. The same is true of aunts and uncles and cousins.
For instance, a study by the Pew Research Centre in the United States showed that for most grandparents, child care is only an occasional responsibility. That was in contrast to grandparents in Germany and Italy, who are much more likely to provide regular child care for grandchildren.
That’s not to say distance is the only factor in that statistic. The study noted that grandparents in the U.S. are more likely to be in the labour force than those in Germany and Italy. And while this study is not from Canada, it is true that we are all more spread out geographically than past generations.
But even if your children spend time with grandma and grandpa, it’s worth capturing the stories of their family for them to appreciate when they grow up. That includes aunts and uncles and cousins, too.
3. Memories are About More Than Photos
Those old photo albums are something to cherish, but there are many tales behind those grainy pictures, and other possibilities for capturing life’s moments.
Here are a few ideas:
Record yourself reading your toddler’s favourite book. They will love hearing your voice in the future, and can eventually play it for their own children.
Write down your top five household rules from their time growing up, why cell phones weren’t allowed after 8 p.m., or the reason you didn’t let her or him get a tattoo when they were a teenager. Sharing your values isn’t easy to do, but it’s an important inheritance to pass on.
Store the recipes for your children’s favourite meals. There’s the macaroni and cheese you just had to make twice a week; grandma’s famous shortbread cookies; uncle’s delicious BBQ sauce for ribs. Enjoying meals together is a common family tradition, and saving those culinary techniques is something your kids will appreciate when it’s their turn to cook.
Record a video of grandparents telling their story. Consider preparing questions in advance. Maybe your parents were part of a significant moment in history, or emigrated to Canada at an early age. Either way, having their stories recorded is a legacy to last forever.
Build a family tree so your children understand the connection to their ancestors. But since your children won’t have met most of those people, share the stories behind those names. Memory keeping is about more than just a picture or a name, so having some history behind them is much more valuable.
Don’t throw out the old photo albums! How about adding some names and context to the albums to make them much more valuable. Rather than leave a bunch of photos of people your children don’t know, scan them and include them with notes in your digital album.
4. Our Children are Growing Up in the Digital Age
Photo albums have quickly become a thing of the past, so why not create a digital photo album to be able to share with your kids. They are so used to technology, it will be easy and enjoyable for them to appreciate your work.
In fact, they will likely want to contribute. As they grow up, they can add their own memories of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They can record stories of their own. They can share the past from their vantage point, giving you another look at the legacy you’re leaving behind.
In fact, by using an easy tool like memoryKPR, anyone can contribute to your family history. This digital platform makes it simple to capture all types of memories and stories. You can create a single story “book”, build one for each child, or have separate ones for different family members. Build one just for family recipes, or holiday traditions.
Then you can add media and invite others to do the same via email or with a QR code. As you work on it, or when it’s done, you share your story with others or keep it private to personally enjoy. There’s even a YouTube video with a demo to help you get started.
Capture voice recordings, photos, videos and add notes, letting you create a legacy of memories for your whole family:
Record yourself reading a story or Aunt Mary singing that funny song.
Save those cherished recipes including hand-written notes of the top tips grandma followed to make cookies.
Take a video of grandpa explaining his journey to Canada as a child, or where he lived growing up.
Scan the family tree with notes about each branch.
Add photos from those albums and continue to add pictures through the years.
Use the notes section for a journal, with those household rules that once made your kids roll their eyes.
You can use memoryKPR on a computer, or on a mobile device with the app that’s available on the App Store or on Google Play. Then upload all kinds of files, with support for formats like JPEG, PNG, MP4, MP3, WAV, and more. You can even import directly from social media like Facebook and Instagram.
5. You’ll Benefit From Gathering the Stories
There’s someone else who will benefit from leaving this type of inheritance for your children: you!
By looking back on your own life, and gathering the stories of your family, you’ll get the bonus of understanding more deeply the importance of stories in your own life.
Maybe you think you understand your parents, but your memories are all from your vantage point. By asking questions of your parents and other family members, you’ll gain a deeper understanding about them. You’ll get the “specifics about their defining moments.” You may learn things you didn’t know.
Our parents and grandparents are a significant part of life, but we often don’t know what they were like before they became mom and dad. What influenced your parents? What are the important events of their life, good and bad?
Your children will ask the same questions as they grow older, wondering about your story, and the story of your parents.
By creating a legacy of memories and stories, you’ll ensure your children and grandchildren will know where they came from and what shaped their lives. They’ll also be able to make that delicious macaroni and cheese for their own children.
Ardith Stephanson is a freelance writer and journalist who shares some of her own stories at theardizan.com