I’ve been seeing “My Legacy” tweets and posts a lot lately. If you are on Twitter and are part of the same circles that I run around in, I’m sure you are seeing it too.
Guys showing off their kids and what they are doing with them. Guys talking about their families and posting pictures of them.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a guy who is trying to be a positive role model for other guys who either have families of their own, or for guys who are interested in starting a family of their own one day.
But let’s dig a little deeper…
Let’s start off with the guys who talk about “my legacy.” Notice the first word in the quotes. “My.” It’s not about his family or his kid’s. It’s not about their well-being or what they want, or even about how they are being raised. It’s about him. It’s about getting digital high-fives and back slaps. It’s about “atta boys” and recognition. In short, it’s about validation seeking. The “my legacy” types are more worried about their “legacies” than how their kids feel about it.
I may not be a father, but I am a son and I was once a teenager. What happened when I was a teenager and even a young man? I rebelled. I rebelled against my family because they too, were more concerned about their “legacy” than they were with what I wanted out of life and how I felt about it. Many of the father’s and even some of the mother’s that I see talking about their “legacy” have young children. Most of these children haven’t become teenagers yet. They are still at that young, fun, impressionable age where Mom and Dad are gods and good guys. It’s going to be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out in the next few years or the next decade.
Worrying about your “legacy” is self-centered in my opinion. I think a lot of the father’s writing about their families are missing the point. It’s not about you. It’s about your kid’s. They are autonomous human beings with feelings and wishes of their own. Growing up being brainwashed by religion and family is a great way to create rebels and black sheep.
I was raised and grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s pretty much the LDS capital of the world. On the surface, it looks idyllic. Nuclear families where the father is the patriarch, mom stays at home and raises the kids. Kids are happy, healthy, so on and so forth, etc., etc. The truth is, many of the families are not nuclear anymore. No-fault divorce is just as accepted and legal in Utah as it is anywhere else in the United States. Drug use, prescription drug use, is high here in Utah. Everybody is on anti-depressants. I’m not making this up. Google the statistics for yourself.
Most of the kids that I grew up with rebelled. Drug use, drinking, pre-marital sex, unplanned pregnancies, all of that was a thing during my youth and still is today. One thing that has changed is young people committing suicide. That has gone up since when I was younger. If life is so grand, why are they killing themselves? Boredom? They’ve peaked out and therefore life can’t get any better, so might as well end it now?
No. That’s not it.
I don’t have all the answers to that question because it’s a complex question, but I can say with certainty because I have lived in it and experienced it firsthand, a big part of it is about perfection. Being perfect, having the perfect little life and family. At least on first glance and on paper.
The truth is, Mom and Dad are popping pills and drinking heavily. The kids are doing the same. Mom and Dad are having affairs and the kids are out screwing like the human animals that they are, but nobody wants to talk about it or address it. Everybody shows up to church on Sunday and it’s business as usual. Teenage pregnancy is high because nobody wants to talk about sex except abstinence. “Sex is something that is between a husband and a wife. You don’t do it until you are married.”
I hate to throw around the term narcissistic fantasy, but the “my legacy” crowd is indeed doing that very thing. It’s not about their kids really. It’s about them. The only difference that I’m seeing now is that they are doing it online instead of in the pews on Sunday. Mother’s and Father’s bragging about how great and wonderful their kids are, while their son is out stealing cars. Talking about how their son is going to go on a mission when he is old enough to do so, and that same son is out drinking and smoking weed, saying he will never go on a mission to his friends. The bishop of the ward talking about the sins of premarital sex, and his son is busy knocking up his “one true love.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say this stuff, I witnessed all of this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. I grew up with it, and nothing has changed.
I think it’s going to be interesting when the “legacy” crowd has their sons and daughters hit their teenage years and many of them rebel. These young families think they have it hard now, they haven’t gone through the crucible of the teenage and early twenty-something years. What I can’t wrap my head around is, they were teenagers once themselves, and not too long ago. They are closer to their teenage years than I am. Have they already forgotten? Did they not rebel? Did they follow their parents’ blueprint to having a “great family?” Or are they going to “do it different” than dear old Mom and Dad did?
Your “legacy” shouldn’t be about your kids in all honesty. Raising children is something that almost everybody does at some point. Ejaculating in a woman and her getting pregnant isn’t a feat. You aren’t special because you had kids. Your kids aren’t your legacy.
Every time I see or hear someone spout off about their “legacy,” I can think of several people who decided that hanging around and taking care of their parents in their old age wasn’t in the plans. I’ve seen people disown their families, walk out the door, and never look back, and with no regrets. My ex-wife’s oldest daughter has two children of her own as I’m writing this, and my ex-wife, the grandmother of these two children, has never seen those children in person and never will. Her oldest daughter will talk to me, but she won’t talk to her own mother. There’s a legacy for you.
I’ve seen “legacies” end up behind bars. I’ve seen them drink themselves to death or overdose on heroin. I’ve seen them join gangs. Your legacy can’t be your family as far as I’m concerned because they don’t owe you anything and they aren’t obligated to you. They can walk out of your life legally the moment they hit the age of majority and never look back. They are autonomous beings with thoughts, feelings, and desires of their own. Give them the space to explore that without the pressure of trying to live up to your legacy.
You want to be a Dad and raise kids? Fine, do that. I don’t have a problem with that. I hope your kids turn out okay and that they are happy and healthy. But don’t make it about you. You chose to have kids, they didn’t choose you. If you want to leave a legacy behind, make it about something else. Otherwise you’ll probably fuck your kids up. That, and all families have kids right? That’s the very definition of a family. Raising kids isn’t an achievement, it’s what everybody does.