We all want to leave our children a legacy. For some, it’s money. For others, it’s a business or property. For still others, it’s family tradition. I would love to leave my kids all of those things and more but there’s one thing, for me, that stands out above all the rest.
I want to leave them with a thought — GCA. GCA stands for Good Choices Always and in our house, it’s something that is repeated often.
My kids are small. They’re 6 and 4 but it’s never too early to reinforce to them the importance and necessity of trying to make choices that will lead to good outcomes. As we all know, young kids, teens and young adults are often beset by the consequences of bad choices. As a journalist, I see and report on those consequences on a daily basis, so I’m immersed in all the drunk driving, accidental shooting and high school fighting stories that occur in many cities and towns across the United States. I’m not going to lie — covering those stories and tragedies leaves me fearful for my kids’ futures and how they’ll handle potentially life-changing decisions in their formative years.
I know that a simple saying may not prevent my kids from falling victim to bad choices. I’m not ignorant about that. But I do hope that if for one, brief second, while they’re weighing whether to try a new drug or go along with someone who may not have their best interests at heart, they remember their father whispering “GCA” to them. Maybe it will make a positive difference in their lives.
We all encounter those moments in our lives. I remember being a 16-year-old who had just gotten his learner’s permit and being offered the chance to drive a classmate’s car. I hesitated because I wasn’t confident in my driving skills but my friend urged me on. I relented and took my place behind the wheel. As we drove, I had to negotiate a very sharp turn and I over corrected. My friend, sitting in the passenger seat, freaked out and grabbed the wheel, yanking it the opposite way. The car hopped onto the sidewalk and slammed into a fire hydrant. It was not a good outcome.
Fortunately, we both were unhurt. But the car was totaled and the aftermath cost my family money because we had to pay for a portion of the car and left me slightly scarred about driving. In retrospect, obviously, I wish that I had made a different choice that afternoon and refused my friend’s request to drive his car, but I didn’t.
Would a thought like “GCA” have changed the outcome? Would it have stopped me from doing something that instinct told me wasn’t a good idea? I know that we all have voices in our head that give us direction from time to time by subtly reminding us of a previous mistake or telling us that mom and dad would not pleased with our decision. Other times, we get a feeling that something we’re considering could turn out very badly with ramifications not only for ourselves but for others. At those moments, I hope that a mantra of “GCA” invades my children’s thoughts and gives them pause.
My kids will make mistakes in life and they will suffer pain and neither my wife nor I will always be there in those moments to shelter, guide and console them. That’s part of parenting and part of growing up. As little people my kids are guided largely by impulse. As they age and experience life, that will ebb and knowing that mom and dad care enough about them to always gently — and sometimes, not so gently — remind them to make good choices always will serve them — and us — well.