Our Legacy Is Our Children… Not Self-Satisfaction

Man Holding Up an InfantSoon after I became a father for the first time, I found myself experiencing an unexpected, nagging sensation of inadequacy. The reason behind it had nothing to do with anything bad going on in my life. In fact, my life was actually progressing along quite well. I had a good job, owned a nice home, and was going on my third year of marriage to my wonderful wife. And of course, I was also a proud new father.

But when I’d look into my son’s eyes, a perception began to build in my mind, as silly as it might have been, that I hadn’t done enough in my life that he could admire me for.  Sure, I considered myself to be a good person. I played by the rules, worked hard, and helped out people when I could – all traits that were certainly worthy of general admiration. But I didn’t feel as though any of that was enough. I felt like I needed to reach a more notable stature and achieve some kind of status that could compel my son to one day, when he was older, look up to me in front of his peers and proudly state, “That’s my dad!”

The desire for a legacy in the eyes of my son was one of the things that got me motivated enough to start working on a novel. Writing was something I had a mild interest in at the time, but I felt as though I was capable of more serious, committed work. And what better way to make my son proud of me than crafting a few hundred pages of creativity and dedicating the end result to him, right?

So in my spare time, I immersed myself in my writing and found that it was something I really, really enjoyed. I seemed to have a real knack for it too, and suspected my wife was being honest when she told me how blown away she was by the first few chapters I let her read.

But as my son grew older, and he began laughing at the silly faces I’d make, learning from the things my wife and I would teach him, and returning the love he was given, it became increasingly apparent that my writing was not my legacy. He was my legacy. Writing was just a personal ambition and a gratifying way of expressing myself. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it really has nothing to do with being a good parent. Being a good parent is about doing what’s best for your children.

I think it’s important to understand the distinction between the two because it seems we have a problem in this country right now with people doing things in the name of their children that they’re really just doing to feel better about themselves.

There are lots of examples of this, but one of the more obvious ones deals with sports. Many parents push their children into sports because they believe that the experience will benefit them. And in many cases, they’re right. Others, however, clearly have some biting need to live vicariously through their children’s competitive endeavors. These are the people who we watch shout obscenities from the sidelines and browbeat referees mercilessly until they’re asked to leave, much to the embarrassment of their children. Who among these people, after a little self-analysis, can honestly say that what they’re doing is more for their children than it is for themselves?

This kind of thing happens in politics as well, although it may not be quite as easy to identify. We watch people adamantly support causes and policies they claim are in the interest of their children, when in reality, their support only serves the purpose of letting them feel good about themselves by demonstrating that “they care”.

The gun control debate going on in this country right now is a perfect example. It doesn’t seem to matter that none of the proposed legislation, if enacted at the time, would have prevented any of the tragic mass shootings that spawned the legislation in the first place. Even hardened advocates for increased gun restrictions, like Joe Biden, have admitted that. But supporters want to feel as if they’re doing something. The easiest, most impulsive way to achieve that is to identify the lowest common denominator (guns) and go after it. And once they’ve gotten their way, and legislation has passed, supporters can then pat themselves on the back for doing something they perceive as good. Sadly, that false sense of security will only last up until the time of the next mass shooting, and the cycle will begin all over again.

We see this same thing in the way supporters of global warming legislation proudly promote their cause in the name of their children’s future. After all, who doesn’t want to be responsible for saving the world for their kids, right? But that sense of self-importance is so strong that they automatically dismiss any evidence that points to the conclusion that man-made global warming isn’t quite the problem that it’s long been advertised as. Additionally, they never bother to take into account any of the harmful effects that come with increased environmental regulations, including the children who are adversely affected by the loss of their parents’ jobs as a result of those regulations. The premise of being Captain Planet is just too romantic for some people, I suppose.

The syndrome I’m describing can be found throughout our society, and it’s not inherently sinister. It is, however, a sign of how shallow we’ve become as thinkers. As parents, we need to put more consideration into these things, and decide if we’re really serving our children well by taking part in crusades, in their name, that merely increase our own sense of self-worth.

If we’re truly interested in putting the well-being of our children in front of our own, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in a country that has a national debt of $17 trillion, and a growing culture of dependency and entitlement.

Being honest with ourselves and partaking in a little self-examination, even if it doesn’t come naturally, is a good start.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • I Hate Fascists

    As a father myself, I am with you 100%. Our children are our legacy and a blessing to us. Now turning to those considerably less fortunate than ourselves, the Sandy Hook parents who as we speak, are in Washington pleading for some sanity on gun control, where no doubt, in recognition of their efforts, Toxic Ted Cruz Himself is personally slamming a door in their faces. Can you imagine yourself in their position? Could you, in good conscience, look them in the eyes and tell them that their efforts are a disingenuous attempt to show “they care”? Trivialize them as a feeble attempt at “feeling as if they are doing something”? Add insult to injury by informing them that the “2A” is uber alles, cannot be infringed, and that they do not in fact “deserve a vote”?

    • John Daly

      I absolutely understand and respect the viewpoints of the Sandy Hook parents that you mentioned. My heart goes out to them. I can only imagine what they’ve gone through. I don’t believe they’re ‘disingenuous’ and I don’t trivialize their efforts… but I do believe they’re wrong.

      As usual, you completely missed the point of my column. I’m not calling supporters of more gun control ‘phonies’. I’m saying that it’s important to understand that it won’t do a thing to prevent another such tragedy from happening. ‘Feeling’ like you’re doing the right thing is different than actually doing something that will deal with the problem.

      Unlike you, I understand the other side of the gun control debate. I don’t view people who disagree with me as being evil. Again, I believe they’re wrong. I want to deal with the source rather than the mechanism, because a nut who plans to kill a bunch of people will always find a way. That’s why the answer needs to be to identify the nuts before they act out and prevent them from acting out… not limit the rights of stable, law-biding citizens.

      If none of this is sinking through, look at it from this perspective:

      If someone supported a law to mechanically restrict all automobiles in
      the country to a maximum speed of 75mph because they lost their child to
      a speeding car, would you support that? And if not, for any reason, aren’t you the same monster that you’re trying to portray me as?

      Think about that for a little bit.

      • I Hate Fascists

        Well you did refer to gun control as the lowest common denominator, and supporters of it as impulsive, among other disparaging things, and the Sandy Hook parents are lobbying for gun control. Whatever. Your little Daly Maniacs are no doubt bored to death. Actually they probably tuned out when they saw the headline and the picture of you playing with your kid, thinking you were going all soft on them. Whatever. I’m happy at least one of us understands the gun control debate and is actually doing something rather than just ‘feeling’ it. Let’s hope for the best for our kids’ sake.

        • John Daly

          Yes, it’s the lowest common denominator because it merely looks at the mechanism and not the people who would commit such a horrendous act.

          And when the legislation won’t do a thing to stop similar acts in the future (as even admitted by big proponents of it), how can it be anything other than an impulsive, politically-expedient initiative?

          By the way, that’s not me in the picture… so you can go ahead and remove it as your desktop wallpaper, as you’re clearly one of my most loyal Daly-maniacs.

          • I Hate Fascists

            You are talking nonsense. Identifying the nuts and preventing them from acting is a nice dream. But that’s all it is. No legislation like that is being proposed by anyone on either side. Cut the bullshit and get serious. No one needs assault weapons, cop killer bullets, or 100 round clips except a terrorist. Universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole is sensible and has near 90% acceptance. Your “gun control won’t do a thing” quote from “big proponents” is bullshit and you know it. You know what the reality is. You want to live in a Fascist Fantasyland, that’s your problem.

          • John Daly

            Oh, it’s a more realistic dream than stopping mass-shootings by banning semi-automatic rifles, hoss. Even the big wigs on your side concede that. Plenty of quotes to choose from, but I’m pretty certain you already know it to be true.

            The shooters in all of these such incidents over the past few years were evaluated by professionals who knew they had serious problems. Yet, instead of focusing on THEM with legislation, we’ll go ahead and focus on the law-biding, stable people… then act all shocked and call for even more gun control the next time a similar tragedy happens. Brilliant.

            And I KNOW no such legislation is not being proposed on either side. That’s a problem, and that’s why nothing will be accomplished to prevent these kinds of things from continuing to happen.

            I couldn’t care less about background checks and the ‘feared’ gun show loophole that never produced a single one of these incidents. I care about banning certain guns simply because they look scary. That’s dumb, gives people a false sense of security, and it won’t fix a thing.

            You can Google one of my previous columns for your rebuttal to the “need” argument, but all you have to do is go back to the earlier example (which you predictably ignored). No one ‘needs’ a car that drives faster than 75mph. Answer the question: Should there be a law requiring than no car (other than those from law enforcement, military, etc) can physically exceed that speed? And if you don’t support that, you must be a cold and heartless monster who doesn’t care about the victims of automobile fatalities. Right?

            Oh, and please… for God’s sake, have someone explain to you what a fascist is. I implore you. You clearly have no idea how ridiculous you sound.

          • I Hate Fascists

            You have gone from the ridiculous to the ludicrous now bro. Big Wigs on my side have conceded no such thing. “Plenty of quotes to choose from” is not a quote. “Google one of my previous columns” is not a rebuttal. And if you want to know what a Fascist is, you can google your previous columns because I explained it to you already (I think it was your Bill Maher column). You have no arguments, no quotes, no rebuttals, no nothing. And I’m pretty certain you know that to be true.

            Neither Lanza, Holmes, Loughner were judged as “mentally defective” which is the legal standard to show up in the NICS background check system. Funding for expasion of the NICS system, as well as for ATF, has been withheld by your right wing friends in Congress.

            Just as you cannot force every illegal immigrant to self-deport, you cannot force every psychopath to self-imprison. So stop tilting at windmills and get back to reality. It turns out that there is some bipartisan legislation, as well as in the Obama budget, around mental health issues. Funding for community health centers, training for teachers to spot early signs of mental illness, More Medicaid funding for mental health care. Also Obamacare will provide insurance coverage for mental health treatment and drugs. But none of that rises to the level that will prevent mass shootings.

            You right wingers will milk this bait and switch nonsense for all it’s worth won’t you? Whether it is guns (cars, hammers), the “2A” (the “1A” or “4A”), Obamacare (broccoli), or gay marriage (marrying your dog). Anything to create confusion and distract from the issue at hand. But I will give you a hint, it has to do with the fact that a gun is nothing but an implement of destruction, not so with a car.

            You are way off the charts . You make as much sense as O’Reilly sticking up for the Easter Bunny. What for? Your Daly Maniacs (those that didn’t tune out right from the start) have long since gone off to la la land. So give it up bro. I think I hear Proprietor Goldberg screaming for another article.

          • John Daly

            Stay on the topic. You can rant about fascists and the Easter Bunny later.

            Do you support a law requiring that no car (other than those from law enforcement, military, etc) can mechanically exceed 75mph? Yes or no. Are you going to dodge this question a third time?

          • I Hate Fascists

            The topic is gun control. Not cars. You have nothing left to say on the original topic so now you are trying to change the topic. I thought I explained that already. The car issue is different from the gun issue because a gun has only one purpose which is to kill whereas a car can be deadly but that is not its purpose. So the answer to your question is, maybe, but it’s a story for another day.

          • John Daly

            lol. The original topic wasn’t about gun control. It was about parenting.

            First of all, guns are used for target practice, protection, security, and hunting among other things. Yet, all you see is their murder potential. That’s one of the reasons I could never be a lefty: The thinking is too shallow.

            Secondly, cars are also used as an instrument for murder. You’ve seriously never heard of someone purposely running over someone else? It happens far more often than mass-shootings.

            Lastly, accidental and negligent automobile deaths are often caused by speeding. I would argue that speed-control would actually save many, many lives, while gun control would not.

            So, to use your own leftist logic, aren’t you saying by not signing on to speed-control, that you’re spitting on the graves of the parents who have lost children to people that were recklessly speeding? How dare you! I think you might be a racist.

            Did you like that? I learned it from you.

            Now, the reason we don’t have speed-control is because our society punishes drivers who commit crimes with cars. We don’t punish ALL drivers. We let people have their freedom when it comes to how fast their cars can travel and only punish those who abuse that freedom.

            We don’t let people have driver’s licenses who are threats to our public safety, just like we shouldn’t let people have guns who are threats to our public safety. That’s why legislation needs to be directed at unstable, unlawful individuals… Not stable, law-biding citizens.

            And if you disagree with me, you’re probably a cult leader. Right?

  • Bob

    Too often the ‘feel good’ legislation is adopted instead of actual productive laws. Global Warming is a great example. We have many serious environmental regulations in the United States. While we may not be perfect about contributing to so-called ‘greenhouse gasses’, we have certainly made an effort. So what do we do? We buy cheap products from India and China where there are very few environmental laws.

    Rather than raising the bar, empowering the EPA and making things more difficult on the American people, shouldn’t we just start taxing Chinese goods with a ‘pollution tax’? This isn’t even an idea that’s taken seriously.

    The same could be said for ideas like arming school teachers, implementing profiling in Airport security (like they do at Israeli airports) rather than the ridiculous TSA, passing reasonable and intelligent healthcare reform rather than an incomprehensible Obamacare. I, for one, simply don’t understand why poor feel good solutions are proposed and accepted for so many of these problems.

    • John Daly

      Because it’s easy and politically expedient, I suppose.

  • sheila0405

    The worst time to pass legislation is during emotional duress. Legislation needs to be thoughtful, and has to incorporate what could be unintended consequences. We are seeing that right now as we see more and more of Obamacare being revealed. In our zeal to make sure that all Americans should have access to medical care, we didn’t think about the best way to accomplish that goal. With the President’s recent announcement that his cuts to Medicare include reducing reimbursements to providers, reality starts to set in. Fewer doctors will want to accept Medicare patients, and therefore, fewer seniors will have access to care.The one area where we should see some emotion is the national debt. The debt will in fact have a devastating impact on our children. Where is the national outcry over how our government is wasting our money? Where are grieving parents who are storming Capitol Hill over the diminished future of their children, should the US go into bankruptcy? I am shaking my head.

    • John Daly

      Absolutely right. The problem is that logic doesn’t fit as easily on a bumper-sticker as knee-jerk emotion does.

  • sjangers

    That’s a very thought provoking column, John. Our generation has lost its way because we’ve lost track of the things that really matter. We’re just one link in a long chain. We need to make sure that our actions today help that chain remain strong long into the future.. And, as you suggest, we really need to be very thoughtful about how we strive to reach that goal as it’s all too easy to rationalize the things we want to do as the things we should do.

    • John Daly

      Thanks. I agree with you.