Intergenerational Self: What the heck does that mean?

I love history, especially the history of my family. I read a column back in March that ran in the New York Times that really stuck with me. If you have time to read it, it’s worth the time. If not, the basic premise for the article was that people who know where they came from, ie. their family history, tend to do better in the face of challenges.

I totally agree.

While my family’s, the Prahm family (pronounced Prame not prom), roots here in the United States don’t go back to the Mayflower, we do have a full and rich history. I have a pretty good grasp of my great grandmother’s family. I know about how my great grandparents met, when they were married and the struggles they had. I know about my grandmother and her ten siblings. I know about my grandfather and how his father died of tetanus. My grandmother and grandfather’s struggles during the 1980s recession, how things were bad and got worse and how they eventually lost their business. I know about my mother and father and how they got engaged without even dating (longer story for another day), and how they spent their honeymoon in the back of a station wagon because they couldn’t afford a hotel. They used the towels they got for wedding presents as their sheets.

The point is, if you know your family narrative, you know the people who went before you, you know about their struggles and hopefully you know that their story turned out okay.

I remember calling my grandmother  so overwhelmed with my son one day I thought I was going to cry. I asked my grandmother, mother of seven, how the heck did she find time for everything. I knew the stories from my aunt and uncles, how she was alway their to do the mending, the baking, everything. I listened as she explained she just did what needed to be done and had her routine. For example, she did the wash on Monday and baked the bread. Swept and mopped Tuesday and did the ironing and so on. But she also told me, she didn’t know how her grandchildren ie. me did as much as I did. Working and being a mother.

Talk about perspective.

What I found most fascinating is that one of the studies cited in the article said that children who had the most self confidence had a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they are part of a family and they belong to something bigger than themselves. They know about the successes and struggles, and instead of dwelling on the downside, they just “dd a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship.”

Something to think about….


Which leads me to my next project. I decided that I want to design two crests. One for the larger Prahm family (for a family reunion May 2014) and one for my immediate family. The first oneI am working on is for my family. Here is my rough sketch.

Designing a Family Crest Draft

Obviously I am still in the brainstorming session. Words I think about when I think about my family is construction, bridges, crane, tomatoes, gardening, earth, soil, Kansas, Minnesota, faith, bible, music, bonfire, guitar, singing, barn wood, books, Longitude, Gettysburg, … Now while these may just be a list of words to the untrained eye, but is my past and present.

My father was a crane operator and built bridges and houses all his life. When we were really little and poor he worked out that he could cultivate some of the land where he parked his crane, so we grew everything from raspberries and strawberries to endless rows of tomatoes. I can still picture driving down that old dirt road in my head. On the weekends, to earn extra money my dad would take down old barns sometimes for money, other times for the scrap wood that he would turn around and sell. It was a family affair. We’d spend our mornings exploring and appreciating 200 year old structures before we tore them down in the afternoon. Boom up, cable down…getting to operate the crane will forever be seared in my memory.

My parents read us the Bible to encourage our spiritual development and books to challenge are thinking. When we were teenagers and into adulthood my brother and friends and family would gather around the bonfire and sing Dave Matthews songs… Van Morrison, lyrics that spoke to the soul. Warm summer night, home-brewed beer and the smell of burnt wood are what dreams are made of.

This crest is about coming up with something for my son and my nieces and future little ones to look to something tangible, something that says, this is what our family is about. No it’s not a traditional crest. I doubt I’ll put any lion on there or coat of arms, but I may add a Seabee symbol to pay homage to my dad’s military service. I want them to be able to look at the crest and be proud of where they came from… maybe even add something to it.

I’m excited to see the list my brother and sister come up with and excited about what the final piece will look like. I’ve already gotten comments from my mom and sister-in-law. I supposed we’ll need to add something Irish to it. My brother and sister are considering getting a tattoo of this.. eek, a lot of pressure. I’m not sure that I can handle a needle, but I’m coming up with some fun ways to display this. I can’t wait to share the final product.

How about you? Anyone considering doing a family crest or perhaps writing some stories down to strengthen your intergenerational self?

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