My sister graduated from college a few years back. I forget how old she was but it was definitely closer to 50 than 20. She had kept plugging away at units as she raised 3 children, endured numerous military moves to different states (with different college requirements), sustained dozens of months of her husband’s deployments, lost her father, supported both her mother and father in law through both of their second spouses deaths… No matter what life threw at her, no matter that she created a successful career for herself after her children were grown without a degree, she persisted. She decorated her cap with the phrase her grown children will swear she screamed at them numerous times over the years:
Bennetts are NOT quitters!
“But WHY CAN’T I quit baseball?”
“Why? Because you wanted to sign up, and Bennetts are NOT quitters”
“But I don’t WANT to take dance anymore”
“Well that’s really too bad. The performance is in a month and your class is counting on you. Bennetts are NOT quitters”
“I don’t even care! I’m not going to finish the homework tonight. It’s too confusing”
“BENNETTS ARE NOT QUITTERS!”
I don’t think she even did it knowingly. But it resonated.
Similarly, we were watching one of our favorite shows, Family Reunion on Netflix, and they said several times, “McKellens always figure things out”. My son said “oh Mom, that’s like how you always say ‘Iloles always try’!”
I guess I do say that a lot!
Another one of my sisters, who apparently is not so family-name focused, says “We always INCLUDE” a lot. She also says, “I love life, and life loves me” which may be more of an affirmation than a motto, but really what’s the difference?
Define your Core Values
I love the idea of having an anchor motto that reflects your core values as a family and helps cement a family culture that you want your children to pass on. Something you know will be secretly echoing in their head even when they are 25 or 30 and wanting to quit. My oldest sister’s and my motto seem to be focused on our core value of persistence. For that same reason, I love the quote “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. I’ve never been one to believe that things come easily to anyone, and I have felt proud when my son has seen his improvement finally after sticking with something for long enough. Whether it’s long division or basketball, most things take a little effort and effort isn’t always fun!
But the motto “We always include”, is just as useful as a core family value. We remind the kids this when they complain about their little sister or brother or cousin tagging along, or when we invite their friends’ little sisters and brothers to tag along. Include people always, and your life will be richer. Let more kids in on the fun, we always have room for one more at the table, we are generous with our love and our abundance.
Having a family motto is grounding and somewhat calming. Something that buoys your thoughts when you are struggling with a problem. Something to relate to and a standard to hold yourself to. Just like companies define core values as they aim to create a company culture, we too should look at our core values and decide what we want our children to remember. Our family always includes. We always try. We never quit. We support each other. We always choose being kind over being cool. We listen. We forgive. These core values will raise strong kids into amazing adults this world needs so desperately.