The world needs better dads (and better men) than we currently have (and have had).
Lately, I’ve encountered people whose parenting motto seems to be: “If it was good enough for me, then it’s good enough for my kids.”
These parents are attempting to translate their childhoods into the modern world and raise their kids in the same way. I cannot agree with this. We don’t need more people just like us.
We need more people better than us.
After having two children, I’ve concluded that I want each of my kids to become a better person than I am today. I’m pursuing this goal, although the results won’t be available for decades and are likely to resist analysis.
It has two major implications:
First, to raise kids who are better than me, I have to be honest about what is wrong with me.
Who am I? I am a person full of fears and bad judgment. Too often, I fail to see bigger perspectives. I have a crazy short fuse. I can crumple easily when I should be standing up for myself or for someone else. I am clueless or callous when even the smallest amount of caring could make a difference. I have been entitled. I have demanded others see things my way even when I refuse to reciprocate. I lose faith for stupid reasons. I have been a cheat, a thief, an abuser, a liar, a bigot, an asshole — often without knowing it, but sometimes with intent. I hope I have some good qualities too, but: Why would the world need any more people with these same failings? Furthermore, I wish I had been a better kid growing up. They may never know it, but my kids need themselves to be better than me.
Second, to raise kids who are better than me, I have to be honest about what was wrong with my parents.
Don’t take this the wrong way: I am not a grown child who blames his parents for his shortcomings. My failings are my responsibility. Nonetheless, our first examples of parenting are from our own parents, and there’s not a parent in the world that has done everything right. If our parents were terrible, then it should be easy to figure out how to be better. Were they addicts, abusers, or absentee? Such things are a tough heritage to fight, but as parents, we have to be the last of our family tree to describe our parents with these words. On the flip side, if our parents were fabulous, then we have a great example to follow — but there’s always room for improvement, because look at us, right?
More than likely, your parents did some things really right, some things OK, and at least one thing terribly wrong.
Copy the good stuff. Don’t copy the bad.
Let’s not clone ourselves, dads. The world doesn’t need more like you and I are today. It needs more who are better than us.
We’re in a position to make that happen.
Photo: Getty Images
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