I've spent a lot of time thinking about legacies. The stories and narratives that we create about ourselves that remain once we die. The traditions and history that binds us to our past and to the future. The legacy that I'm leaving for my kids and grandkids.
What am I creating or building that I can give to them and that they can give to their kids? What traditions do I observe and teach my children? How can I inspire a sense of belonging and pride in my family?
Seeing the pride and identity that came from wearing a patch inspired me and I wanted to find a way to create those same conditions in my family. I needed to find a symbol to represent my family that I could turn into a patch.
I figured that a family crest or coat of arms was the right place to start so I began looking for something that might point me in the right direction. A bit of research revealed that there was a great deal of uncertainty regarding my family's coat of arms. I'm actually not even sure that my family had a coat of arms.
At first I was disappointed at the lack of tradition. Then the thought occurred to me, "These things have to start somewhere. Why not make one now?"
My research into coats of arms and unit insignia taught me that the imagery used reflects the values and heritage of the people that it represents. Ok, cool, what are the values that I would want to represent on my family insignia?
There's a lot of talk about "family values", but it's all done in general terms and usually as a code word for traditional conservative values. If you set that discussion aside and ask yourself the question, "What are my family values?" I suspect you'll find that you'll take longer than you might expect to write them all down. I certainly did.
Think about it. What are the values that are truly important to your family? What is so critical to your family identity that you'd want it represented on a symbol for you and yours?
It took me a long time and many, many re-writes, but I finally settled on four family's values. I chose these values because I felt that if my kids held these close to their hearts and let them guide their thoughts, they're much more likely to end up happy, successful, and balanced people.
I'm working on planning a rite of passage for my boys that they can use as a marker in their lives to identify their transition into manhood. Part of that plan includes presenting them with several significant gifts that bear the family coat of arms. Things that they can carry with them to remind them of their connection to their family.
There's a lot around the rite of passage that I want to dig in to, but that's outside the scope of this article. For now, I want to challenge you to sit down and spend some time thinking about what your family values are and to do some research into your family history to see if there's already a family coat of arms that you can carry forward.
If, like me, you can't find one, make one.