Monday, May 4, 2009

Family Stories

I had dinner last night with my 87 year-old father. Unlike many 87 year-olds, my father has more energy than all of his kids combined. He is a horse breeder in Louisiana, has race horses, and still drives all over Louisiana and Texas. He is also a consumate story-teller. Funny, loud, never met a stranger, yarn spinner.

I wonder if kids ever stop being curious about their parents and loving to hear their stories. As with every other time I see my father, some family story gets told or retold, embellished or critiqued, catalogued once again in the family lore. Last night was the story of my dad and his business partner getting fired from the company at which they both worked--which led them to start a very successful business together. But at the time, they had 10 kids between them, and his partner's wife was the only one working. How they made it out of that mess is never revealed, but make it out they did. And,of course, the story was much better coming from him.

As I write this, I think of all the kids who have no family stories, or who have stories of abuse, neglect, abandonment. I think of how difficult it is without positive family stories for them to anchor to a healthy identity, to feel their place in the world, to feel the support of generations past. Kids who get bounced from one foster placement to another or from one shelter to another, kids who end up on the street, kids who don't know who their parents are.

For alot of our teens at Promise House, we are their anchor, their family story. I've often said that whatever it takes to raise a kid is what we do. And part of raising a kid is giving them a story--a good story of who they are, what they are capable of, and who supports them.

I am so indebted to my father for all the incredible stories he has shared with me. Because of him, I know who I am, I know my place in the world, and I know what I am capable of.

If we can give that gift to our teens, I think we will have been pretty good parents.


  1. That's a great story Harriet - I hope your dad is reading your post!

  2. Are you kidding?? He can't even turn on a computer, hates email, and cusses out the automated directory assistance operator!