Tell your stories


I am now the matriarch; the moral compass.  It’s a position of leadership and responsibility I can embrace or abdicate, but what does it mean?

In my Universal Dictionary of the English Language (1938), passed down to me by family on my mother’s side, matriarch is given a sentence and patriarch a whole paragraph.  A matriarch is the wife of a patriarch with corresponding status.  A patriarch is the head of a family, clan or tribe who rules by paternal right; a venerable old man, the senior member of a society or community.

A Google search turns up this definition of matriarch: a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state; specifically: a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants.

It’s interesting that the word dominate shows up in the more modern definition of a matriarch and the concept of partnership gets dropped. Wikipedia offers the view that associating the word domination with matriarchy is a patriarchal attempt to condition society to reject the concept of matriarchy.

Pshaw, I say. I prefer the definition that describes a partnership where mom and dad each have something to say based on their seniority. They probably say the same thing, only differently. Deciding what to say how and to say it is the challenge. Here are three guidelines.

  1. 1.    Keep the legends alive. With the advent of genealogy websites, a mystery solved often opens the door to new mystery. My nana was a dancer whose husband, legend has it, died enroute to the birth of their baby girl. I recently discovered that in fact, he died three years after the birth of that baby. He was living in Oroville, CA and was buried in Spokane, WA. The tragedy in this story is different than I imagined, but it doesn’t change the memory of the nana that let me teach classes in her dance studio and taught me to say The Lord’s Prayer when I went to bed at night. My nana grounded me in a faith in Christ and a respect for education I want to pass down.
  2. 2.    Offer your unique perspective. You are a link in a generational chain. Tell your stories. My papa believed educating girls would make them dissatisfied to be wives and mothers. He laughed at me when I told him I would do both: have a career and raise a family. Regardless, he arranged for me to work at his place of business so I could save money for college. A college education is something my granddaughter takes for granted. What does this story tell about the difference between what our progenitors said and what they did?
  3. 3.    Respect generational differences. Today’s children are wired for the world of the future. Touting the superiority of our youthful pastimes won’t gain their respect. When I introduced Anne of Green Gables to my granddaughter she was skeptical (What’s a gable?). I told her she would like this little girl because Anne was a girl with a ‘tude. My granddaughter fell in love with Anne.

My nana left home at age 16 to dance on the stages of New York. What she chose to pass down to me was a faith that I don’t know she even had. My papa was old school, but he loved and respected women. I had the privilege of leading him to Christ when he was in his eighties and facilitating his baptism.

Faith that knows no limits; love that knows no bounds; that’s the legacy I want to pass down. The position of matriarch is begging to be filled. Do the job right and the pay is respect. The benefit? Eternal.

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