Black and white image of two metal circular trash cans on the corner of a sidewalk in a New England town.

Editing the Family Manual – Cut and Pasted from Generation to Generation

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The year was 1995. I was walking behind a father and his daughter in the garment district in New York City. I watched as the father handed his child a piece of gum. A moment later, only inches from the closest trash can, I watched as they both opened their gum and tossed the wrappers on the street. What is wrong with people?!

Thankfully, later on, I was able to turn my anger into understanding. I realized how that kid just learned what to do with a gum wrapper. Likely, exactly what the father learned to do growing up. The only reason why I was pissed about this was because the manual I got from the collection of teachings from my parents, aunts, uncles, my education, and life journey, says that you’re supposed to put trash in a garbage can. If I wasn’t taught that, I wouldn’t know that. 

When I’m in a place where I feel justified in judging someone else’s actions, I always think back to that pair of gum wrappers. Those people not only opened my mind to becoming more compassionate, they also got me to think about my manual. As an adult, I have the freedom to continually edit those chapters. I can keep the things I love, and be open to acknowledging that there are ways in which I proverbially ‘toss the wrapper’ and don’t even realize it.

Generation after generation, it’s just lesson after lesson getting cut and pasted into new families. Whether it’s my stance on going to therapy, quitting a sport, teen dating, or littering—I owe it to myself and our family to fit those chapters to the needs of our specific circumstances and our specific generational needs. And in my experience, the more I edit, the happier I am.

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    Welcome to my blog! Here you can read about what’s on my mind as I try my best to recover from screaming at my kids and nagging the bejesus out my husband.

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