Essential Things about Life My Children Have Taught Me | The BridgeMaker

Essential Things about Life My Children Have Taught Me

By on May 21, 2009


It is a wise father that knows his own child. – William Shakespeare

Having children is an amazing and life-changing experience! When Brandon was born, our first child, the excitement Mary Beth and I felt about having the opportunity to give life and nurture another human being was both incredible and humbling.

Along with feelings of happiness and pride, we also understand the tremendous responsibility it takes to raise a child. My wife and I are still learning that no matter the ages of our children, or what’s going on in their life, they will always be dependent on us. That’s just how nature works – and that’s just fine with us.

After Brandon, along came Caitlin, Andrew and then Emily. We often comment about how remarkable it is that our four children, who share the same mother and father; and who slept within 20 feet of one another; and who received the same parenting (more or less), are each so appropriately unique from the other.

In a few weeks, many of us will celebrate Father’s Day. This day is intended to give children the formal opportunity to thank and honor their fathers. It’s also a day to acknowledge the contributions their dads have made in their lives.

Some fathers pass along their own life experiences and other lessons learned in an attempt to spare their sons and daughters from making the same mistakes they once did. Some fathers also pass along their spiritual beliefs and they strive to always model how to be a person of character and integrity. In my way; in my best attempt, I have tried to do all of these things, too.

More than anything else my desire when I was that 23-year-old young man holding my new-born son for the first time was to break the cycle of addiction and dysfunction that existed in my family. I wanted to be a father who would put his children’s needs before his own and I wanted to be a father who would teach his children how to live their life to their fullest potential.

However, something totally surprising happened along the way – I have learned as much from my children as I hope they have learned from me. I think this is part of nature’s plan, too. Sometimes the best lessons are taught by the ones who don’t think they know all of the answers, but do know how to live life simply and fully.

Essential Things about Life My Children Have Taught Me

Over the past 23 years here are the essential things about life my children have taught me. These lessons are all gifts from their heats to mine:

  • Always make time for the people you love.
    When my last day on this earth arrives, and if I’m aware of it’s presence, I don’t think I will say I wish I had worked more, or put more time into my career. Instead, my hope is I will look back and celebrate the time I had with the people I loved the most.

    When they were much younger, my kids would always stop playing at the end of the day in time to get a bath and have a few minutes to sit in my lap while I read to them. This time was important and they made certain it happened as often as possible. It’s a great lesson to remember. The people we love the most may not be with us tomorrow, but we can make time for them today.

    My children have taught me this.

  • Asking for help is a sign of strength; not weakness.
    Somewhere along the way many of us were encouraged, perhaps even told, not to ask for help. We believed asking was a sign of weakness. The opposite couldn’t be truer. While raising my children, it became clear they depended on me and Mary Beth for everything. If their diaper was wet – they asked for help; if they were being bullied in school – they asked for help; if they wanted some extra allowance money to buy a new video game – they asked for help. They learned if the request was honest and valid – they would receive our help with getting what they wanted.

    We, too, are empowered to do the same thing. If there is something you want to try, but don’t know how to do it – ask for help. If you are struggling to overcome a lifelong burden, but don’t know where to start – ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of confidence. It shows you are worthy of receiving what you are requesting. When your request is honest and valid – you will be surprised with the results.

    My children have taught me this.

  • If you ignore someone, you will be ignored, too
    I’m still learning how to be a good father. No doubt it is a lesson I will continue to learn as long as I live. When my oldest daughter, Caitlin, was about ten-years-old I would ignore her outbursts of anger. At that time in my life, all I wanted was peace and quiet in the house so I could work or relax. The price for this peace, however, was a steep one.

    My daughter may have been outwardly showing signs of contempt for me, but inside, I think, she was crying for me to confront her and set healthy and reasonable boundaries. After feeling frustrated by my lack of reaction, she shifted from displaying active emotions to demonstrating very passive emotions – she started to ignore me and have nothing to do with me.

    We can’t pick and choose the times it’s convenient for us to be fully present for those closest to us. We are required to be fully present when we are needed the most; no matter how inconvenient.

    Caitlin taught me this.

  • The power of unconditional love is limitless.
    The love our children have for us does not have to be earned. They freely give their love – no matter what. Most of the time unconditional love is returned by the parents. It is unfortunate when it is not.

    I do love my children unconditionally. They don’t have to do anything or become anything to earn my love. They just have it and always will.

    Before they were born, however, the idea of unconditional love was not even imaginable for me. By giving and receiving their unconditional love it has occurred to me I’m truly worthy of unconditional self love, too. I’m learning how to love myself and to forgive myself for the shame and guilt I often feel.

    My children have taught me this.

  • A hug may not fix everything but it has a way of making things feel better.
    Even today, I hug Brandon every time I see him. This habit has been sustained over the years. All of my kids, especially Brandon, have always been affectionate and ready to receive a hug at any time. A hug is a way to share and connect. A hug suggests, “although I can’t fix all of your problems, or have the power to undo one of your mistakes, I will always love you and you will always be worthy of my love and you will never be alone – no matter what.”

    Brandon taught me this.

  • Forgive.
    There will always be people who will take from us and attempt to harm us, but the power of forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves in these situations. Forgiveness allows us to move forward. I have witnessed my children forgive their friends many times for the hurt, both intentional and unintentional, they have caused. When they do forgive, my children free themselves and no longer stay stuck in the past. They are ready to play again or talk again. They are ready for the healing to begin.

    My children have taught me this.

  • Be curious and always keep learning.
    My children often remind me of the need to keep filling my mind with new things, thoughts and ideas. My youngest daughter, Emily, like most ten-year-olds goes through phrases, or fads. A couple of months ago she was in a Titanic phase when she wanted to learn everything she could about the fateful ship. Soon afterward that, she entered her Indiana Jones phase when she wanted to learn more about the time and circumstances that provides the setting for the first couple of movies in the series. Her excitement to learn new things is a reminder, and a motivator, for me to do likewise.

    Emily taught me this.

  • Give life everything you have.
    Mary Beth ran into Andrew’s high school baseball coach the other morning at the bagel place. His coach made it a point to approach her and compliment Andrew on both his level of play and leadership. He told her that he admires our son’s commitment and passion for the game.

    No matter how far Andrew may go with baseball, he has learned a very important life lesson: If you put a lot of time and effort into something you love, you will always find success because you will know, deep down in your soul, you gave it everything you had.

    Andrew taught me this.

The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

  • Beautiful post!

    I love the quote “If you put a lot of time and effort into something you love, you will always find success because you will know, deep down in your soul, you gave it everything you had.”

    I recently realized my purpose in life is to help people grow through my writing. I may not have all the answers but I know if I continuing living my life purpose everything will be ok.

    I also enjoyed ” Be curious and keep learning”

    The day we stop learning is the day we die. We must continually look to expand our knowledge and immerse ourself in different perspectives. If we don’t we will never truly live.

    I’m glad your children were able to teach you so many valuable lessons!

  • Wonderful post! The power of unconditional love and don’t ignore anybody- there two topics impressed me a lot! I have laearnt something today1 kudos1

  • It’s so nice to know that there are still families with healthy and strong bonds. Unconditional love is really powerful.Unfortunately, it’s something not many people have enough of.