Wise Words from Uncle John Family Leadership
I am an uncle. I have seven beautiful nieces and nephews ranging in age from 3 to 14. I am learning what a brief opportunity we have to make a lasting impact on the children in our lives. It is a powerful lesson about family leadership I gleaned from an amazing man I just met, Uncle John.
If you have children in your life, I think you will appreciate his wisdom as well. In terms of leadership, we must first impact and care for those closest to us: our families.
Life gets busy for all of us. Usually our closest relationships are sacrificed to outside demands. Especially the relationships with the children in our lives. They get less and less of our time. It is easy to ignore children. I distinctly remember when I was a child looking up to certain adults in my life, thinking all I wanted was to spend time with them. I didn’t want money, resources, or trips. Just the simplest thing: their time. Time is the most valuable resource we have, and it must be allocated intentionally.
I am blessed to have my nieces and nephews in the same town with me. But my life is incredibly demanding. And I have to admit, I have not given them the time I would like. I usually see them once a week, but rarely do I spend coveted quality time with them. After all, I am doing “very important” things.
Practice Family Leadership
Allow me to tell you about Uncle John (not his real name). He is in his late 50’s, and his children, nieces and nephews are in their 20’s and 30’s. This story is not about who they are at this age. It is about what happened when they were young. What Uncle John did with them and for them while they were little.
I spent time with their family recently. And as we hiked together, I observed they were not like cousins, but like siblings. The entire time, I heard story after story about their experiences together. And every story included fun and memorable times with Uncle John. He would take five to fifteen of them camping, sailing, and hiking as kids. He did it for many years and still does it today.
Mind you, Uncle John is a most accomplished man. He owns multi-million dollar companies. So he had to make family leadership and relationships a priority. After I watched the interactions for a while, I asked him to tell me how he did it.
Bonds Are Formed Before Age 13
He said, “Wes, after 13, it’s too late. Their personalities and our strong bonds with them are formed before 13. You have to start very early with kids.” But I wondered will they remember?
I thought back to my own childhood. My Aunt Jamal left our town when I was only three years old. But to this day, I have the warmest feelings for her. I recall that she adored me when I was young.
We remember. They remember.
Make Spending Time Together a Priority
Uncle John asked me, “What is the most important asset in life?” I offered, “People?” He said, “No.” Then I suggested, “Our time?” He agreed. Uncle John is a wise man. Really wise. His kids, nephews, and nieces actually joke about the nuggets and Johnisms he uses. This was one of them…
He said we all have 24 hours each day. When someone tells you they don’t have time, that’s not true. We all make time for the things we give priority to. “So,” he asked, “will you make relationships a priority?”
Create Memories Even When You Don’t See Results
I sent the first draft of this article to one of the cousins I am close to. I asked her for her feedback or if she would add anything. She said it was important to note that “he also purposefully chose fun and daring activities and avenues as a way of investing in these young lives…and that even though he probably didn’t see immediate results, he definitely did as the years unfolded…all precious memories to him and to them.”
Powerful. So, we must:
Uncle John’s Three Roles
John told me he has aimed to be three things to them.
- Their father
- Their uncle
- Their friend
And that’s exactly what I saw. Now that they are all adults, it is evident Uncle John was all of those things to them.
I once heard a story of a father and son who were perusing their diaries to reminisce. One of the father’s entries reported: Day wasted; all day at lake fishing with son. The son’s diary on the same day read: Best day of my life; all day fishing with dad.
May we alter our priorities and give the greatest gift we can to the children in our lives: our time. Whether it is as uncles, aunts, or parents.
Thank you Uncle John for sharing your thoughts with me about how to be a good uncle. I look forward to learning more from you in the future.
For Further Reading: