Generativity ~ it’s a word that I learned from the psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson and one that has been on my mind as of late. I quite like the sound and meaning. It’s broadly defined as “creativity” and “productivity” but also more specifically in Erickson’s book as “the interest in establishing and guiding the next generation.” So we’re not only talking about making babies here although implied, but something much greater I think.
Enter the word “values.” Doesn’t have to be a nasty word. They are important to all of us. However, I am particularly fond of those that don’t require exclamation, proclamation, or defending. I prefer values that are simply lived, learned and passed on through observation. No words required. Pretty powerful stuff if you ask me.
How we live and the quality with which we live it is, I am learning, is more formative in shaping our little one’s hearts and minds than mastering the helpful hints offered in any parenting how-to book. Parenting (or mothering/fathering in any form not necessarily biological) is a creative endeavor. An art, not a science. This of course is MUCH easier said than done.
So, what do I hope to model to our little one? There is the obvious: empathy/compassion, the ability to laugh at one’s imperfections, that there are many “right” ways out there, and that all questions are welcome (at least they are under our roof). But there are also some little things that are important to me. A couple as follows:
1. Homemade bread. (I have this fantasy that Milo, years down the road opens up his lunch pail alongside his buddies at recess and to his horror and his mom’s delight, discovers that his is the only PB&J made on really grainy healthy homemade bread).
2. Fresh Flowers. From the garden, preferably.
Why the bread and flowers? Could be because they give me joy or that bread and flowers carry a symbolic meaning much greater than their component parts: flour, flowers, yeast and water. I think it’s more of the latter than the former. I take that back. It’s both. Generativity isn’t limited to character formation but also the preservation of lost arts. Interesting the resurgence today of so many of these lost (home) arts: beer and wine making, knitting, canning…I even surprised myself when we walked home from the library a couple of weeks ago with two quilting books stowed safely in that handy compartment under our boy’s stroller. Perfect for books and other delightful free finds along the side of the road.
Milo will undoubtedly make his own conclusions about things such as: homemade bread sucks where’s the Wonder bread? The kid may even have terrible allergies: no gluten, no peanuts, no pollen. What a dud. But I must remain flexible and respect that he is in fact different from me. But I can only hope that the little things we do count somehow. That fresh bread and flowers communicate something deeper and more lasting. Such as, although life can be at times terribly burdensome it is also peppered with bits of joy.
Or more broadly, how we live matters and the quality with which we live it can be passed on by people big and small.