“I’ll never do that when I grow up!”

When I was younger, there were things that went on in my family that REALLY bugged me.

As a “for instance” when my younger brother and I would end up in a “knock down drag out” fight, it seemed that my Mom always had this to say.

“You’re older so you should know better.”

At the time I thought that was so stupid. To jump directly to that statement without knowing what had happened was ludicrous and lazy to me. Especially since my little brother… was a “character.”

“I’ll never do that when I grow up!” I’d rage in my mind.

And I didn’t. I’ve NEVER told ANY of my kids anything like that.

Or when I was a young boy and our family would order pizza. Because we didn’t have much money it was a treat. We’d search and search for a coupon. 

“Buy one pizza at full price and get the next smaller size free.” We’d do that. We’d grab a large and a medium.

Yeah… it SEEMED like a treat. Until you realized that there were seven in our family. With four large and growing boys (and a sister that could eat well, too… it wasn’t. )

“One slice and a quarter slice – and fill up on salad” was NOT a treat to me. 

It was a tease. I didn’t like being teased.

“I’ll never do that when I grow up!” I’d rage in my mind.

And I didn’t. We “load up” on pizza when we buy it. It’s almost a joke how much leftover pizza we always have. My wife says, “That’s too much.” Until I look at her with “a special look” and she remembers my perceived “pizza trauma.”

Maybe you’re the same. 

There are sometimes trivial things that can happen when we are kids that seem SO unfair or SO out of whack that we commit…

“I’ll never do that when I grow up!”

But what if they’re not so trivial? What if they’re major “beliefs” or “habits” or “patterns” that are passed down from generation to generation.

Maybe it’s become a “family culture” or “family tradition.”

And… what if they are… dare I say it? Limiting or even… damaging? 

Possibly to us and to our children and our children’s’ children. 

Do we even KNOW what’s been passed down to us and we’re passing on?

It’s hard to imagine we’d so clearly say, “I’ll never do that when I grow up” if we are unaware, right?

Recently, I was invited to go bowling with my youngest son, Jack and a few of his friends and one of their Dad’s. Within a few moments of chatting I realized I really liked this other Dad. 

He has a great sense of humor, he was happy and playful with the kids and just seemed like a great Dad to his son.

As we chatted about all kinds of crazy stuff, he somehow naturally transitioned to and then mentioned his Dad was a toy salesman when he was growing up and about all the cool and wonderful things his Dad had done for him and his family.

His face brightened as he talked about his Dad.

I could see he was emulating what his Dad had done for him with his own son.

Then… he used a term I had never heard before. He called his Dad a…

“Transitional Character.”

I was intrigued. “What do you mean by that?” I asked.

He then went on to suggest that his Dad… was the first Dad… for as far back as he knew that wasn’t an alcoholic. His Dad’s Dad… and his Dad… and his Dad… for as far back as he knew… had struggled with vices that had limited their effectiveness. 

Then he explained how his Dad was a person that had refused to pass on a family pattern he had inherited and in doing so, had changed the course of his and his future families lives. 

“Me and my kids and their kids… and their kids will all be impacted positively by his decision.”

What was so cool was that I was watching the results of his Dad’s decision play out “in real time.” I was watching the “new pattern” his dad had modeled for him. The pattern HIS Dad had set for him as he helped the boys bowl, patiently showed some of the newer bowlers how to hold the ball, swing the ball and cheered wildly no matter what the outcome.

Whether the boys bowled a 112 or a 12 – yep, they were all over the place in skill level – this Dad set the tone for all the other kids to cheer wildly, to giggle loudly and to have a seriously great time.

And as the kids got drugged up on root-beer, french-fries and lots of laughter and giggles (and pretty bad bowling) I saw them reflecting his behavior.

They cheered each other, they supported each other, they high-fived each other and they all left with giant smiles on their faces.

It was awesome to watch and be a part of.

Here’s the question I’m left asking myself. How can I be a Transitional Character? Like HIS Dad. Because, I LIKE that title. It’s cool, huh?

What embedded “beliefs” or “habits” or “patterns” do I need to break free from? You remember, right? “I’ll never do that when I grow up!”

Or what “beliefs” or “habits” or “patterns” do I need to ADD to my life and model for my kids so that they can achieve their full potential?

Maybe… “I’ll DEFINITELY do that when I grow up!”

I think all too often we make the mistake of thinking we must have some kind of major following or influence like Thomas Edison or Martin Luther King Jr. to REALLY make a difference in this world.

I disagree.

This Dad I was lucky enough to get to know recently… and subsequently his Dad (through his example and story) reminded me of a simple truth.

One person, making a simple decision to refuse to pass on a family pattern, can change the course of their families lives…

For their kids and their kids’ kids and their kids’ kids’ kids… for generations to come.

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