The family is the school of love. Our children learn from us how to become well-functioning adults and potential future spouses and parents. We owe it to them and their progeny to provide a good example of how to live virtuously, paving the foundation for happiness and fulfilment.
“Your children will become who you are, so be who you want them to be,” is advice I have tried to live by.
The good news is, for the most part, my children have turned out better than me, and for that I am glad. Three of my four boys have children of their own, and they are all better dads and better husbands than I — now that is something to be happy about.
The good news is that your children can do better than you. This is the whole point of being a father. A true father is happy when his son or daughter excels him. I know a few fathers who are jealous of their children’s success. Thankfully, they are in the minority.
You notice that I used the word ‘true’ as an adjective to describe father, and I mean it. A great characteristic of a good father is humility. Put simply, the ability to stand in someone else’s shadow and be happy about it. This is what sets the boys apart from the men when it comes to fatherhood.
Growing up in a broken home, I had every reason to fail, but I chose to succeed. Life is a decision. Even as a young dad, when people asked me what my personal goals were, I always said the same thing. I had 18 years to think about it and I didn’t have to think very hard.
The pain of growing up in a broken home is simply indescribable. You feel gutted and cannot do anything about it. In some cases, you even feel responsible for the brokenness. Thankfully I didn’t but some people accept that wrong responsibility on their parents’ behalf. When you are so far down a hole like that, it is hard to climb out.
My big goals in life were that I wanted to get married, I wanted to stay married, and I wanted to have a good marriage. In other words, “Love my wife.” Secondly, I wanted to love my children. I knew that doing the first was the key to the second, so I worked extra hard at that.
Did I succeed with the first? You will have to ask my wife that. Perhaps the fact that we have two date nights a week is a sign of some level of success, but I must also credit my wife with the greater part of that success as I have the innate ability to be quite selfish. I hope you are not like me, LOL.
Regarding the challenge to “become the change you seek”, using Mahatma Gandhi’s words as inspiration, I have always tried to be empathetic to others. I have also gone out of my way from my teens to be a friend to the friendless and a defender of the weak. My first serious fight at 14 years of age was because I was making a stand against bullies in the school playground. I lost the fight, but I won on the principle, and that my friends, is the best way to win.
Integrity cannot be bought, and an honest man sleeps well at night.
One of the ways my children excel is on their empathetic abilities. My daughter is quite empathetic, but my four sons excel in that area. The ability to show empathy to other humans has a lot to do with your ability to love and care for people. It is a highly desirable attribute.
My second son in particular was always reaching out to total strangers in his teens, offering them food and whatever they needed to keep body and soul together. Sometimes some other human being taking an active interest in you can help you more than anything else. Mother Teresa says that the great scourge of western society is loneliness. I cannot disagree with her. This son embodied that care and love more often than not. As a father, I was immensely proud of him.
Chatting further with him, we discussed the nurture vs nature issue, and both agreed that such empathetic care was part of our Marsh family heritage. I argued that he has taken empathy to the next level. Whatever the case, I can assure you, I am one proud father.
Sadly, bad fathering can have exactly the opposite effect. I was watching a documentary about a famous singer/songwriter called, “Who is Harry Nilsson”. He wrote a semi-biographical song called 1941 which describes how he was abandoned by his own father and subsequently abandoned his own son in the same way at exactly the same age.
As a singer/songwriter myself, his story really hit me. All I could think to myself was that well-worn saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Thankfully the pain I grew up with helped me change my future and that of my children. For that, I am truly grateful.
Don’t give up on yourself. “Your children will become who you are; so be who you want them to be.”
Yours for our children,