My children made me a father. I don’t mean that they came into the world and my name was entered into their birth certificate in the appropriate place. That was true also; but that is not what I mean. I mean that through their influence I grew into the role. I became the father they needed. This is why:

They trusted me. Trust is a huge motivator; much more effective than fear. Fear causes you to close down; to seek the most available route out of trouble. Trust causes you to grow to meet your children’s (often unrealistic) expectations. You want to be larger, not smaller. You want to give more, not less. Their innocent trust in your abilities drives you to develop those abilities. Their trust in your character drives you to refine and purge that character. Their trust in your wisdom drives you to research and understand the issues that concern them. A child’s trust is not something you can mess with. You have to earn it.

They loved me. I so do not deserve that love. I am tough-minded and even cruel on occasion. Life has often kicked me in the face and I have fought back. Hard. I can be unforgiving and relentless. But my children loved me. And I wanted to be worthy of that love. I took their rebuke and disappointment in me and turned it into lessons for improvement. I confessed my unworthiness and sought to be more worthy. I dug deep into my faith and asked God to show me what needed to change. My children’s love for me transformed me into a better man, and continues to do so.

They respected me. This is the ground of a man’s being. His children’s respect will drive him to heroics of self-sacrifice. Men who lose the respect of their children lose the better half of themselves. My children may not have agreed with every decision I made, but I ran every decision through this filter: Is this worthy of my children’s respect? Not their agreement; not their compliance. Those are different issues. But everything you do has to meet this standard or it is a non-starter. My children have their own priorities and concerns and they do not perfectly align with my own. But I know they respect me, and I am determined to live a life that is worthy of that respect to my dying breath. Their respect influences my behaviour. Always has.

My children made me a father; made me a better man. But here is the icing on that cake: their lives bring me great joy! They are no more perfect than I am. But they all live lives that are worthy and uplifting. They are all ruled by kindness and consideration. They all understand the value of relationship and are not slaves to money or superficial consumerism. They care for others, and they care for each other. This is the sweet legacy of having tried to be the father that my children needed me to be. My children made me a father, and that has been the greatest joy in my life.