“Mom, can I go to a movie with Mark?”
“Because you are a Surratt and Surratt’s don’t go to movies.”
“But Mark’s mom is letting him go!”
“I’m not Mark’s mom and Mark is not a Surratt”
“I wish I wasn’t a Surratt”
“We can arrange that” (Mom was not the touchy feely kind)
The point of this post isn’t the good or bad of being raised in a somewhat legalistic home. The point is that my mom established that being a Surratt meant something, She wasn’t referring to our reputation or notoriety, we didn’t have any. No one, outside of students of obscure Civil War history, had ever heard of the Surratt family. But to mom we had an identity and we were to respect that identity and live a life worthy of the name we had been given.
Although my mom has been gone for over 20 years and I now attend movies on a regular basis I can still her admonishing me, “You’re a Surratt.” And that makes me proud. It makes me want to aspire to something. It makes me want to bring honor to our family name. When I had kids of my own, though the issues had changed, they were raised with that same phrase echoing in their ears. And I imagine my little granddaughter will one day be heartbroken when she realizes she too has to live within certain boundaries because, “You’re a Surratt”.
Give your children a name. Teach them to respect that name. Don’t allow them to feel superior to other children, but at the same time let them know that their name stands for something. They will chafe under it when they are young, but they will take pride in it long after they have moved out of your house because you have given them a legacy.