Kids usually require you to take a good look in the mirror, in my experience. And no, I don’t just mean to check for spit-up on your shoulders or peanut butter on your shirt. I’m talking about the serious personal reflection that comes with recognizing the responsibility associated with parenting, that often leads to deep thinking and genuine attempts to be a good person. In fact, I think there are a number of ways kids teach you to be a better person.
Of course, my definition of “better person” may differ from yours, and that’s totally fine. As long as we can agree that neither of our lists should have things like “kidnap puppies,” and “cyberbully people at least a decade your junior,” I think the sentiment is still pretty close. Kids require us to step up our game as humans.
That said, having kids is most certainly not a requirement to be a good person. Some of the best people I know are, in fact, not parents. However, perhaps those that are will understand what I mean, since I’m probably — OK, hopefully — not alone when those moments of, "Oh snap, my toddler just witnessed that snarky eye roll. I need to be more careful,” occur. Here’s how my son (and his future sibling) have helped me become a better person:
You’ll Be Inspired To Be A Positive Example For Them
As a retired camp counselor, I thought I had a grasp of being a positive role model, but parenting is a whole new ball game. Sometimes, this comes in small ways, like tidying the living room after play time or putting your phone down to have a conversation. Other times, it’s big picture stuff, like standing up for what you believe in.
You’ll Put Their Needs First
Here’s a slightly gross, personal story you didn’t ask for: you know how some people are squeamish around blood? Or feet. Or spiders? Well, that’s how I feel about barf. Historically, I’m the worst possible wing-woman when a friend overindulges, since my body fully kicks into “fight or flight” mode and I fail miserably at helping. And, while, deep-down I knew that having a kid would expose me to digestive traumas, I was not excited for it.
Of course, that day eventually arrived, and you’ll never guess what happened. My parenting instincts took over, I literally caught my son's throw-up with paper towels, and I managed to stay calm and reassure him throughout the ordeal. For the record: I’m not trying to toot my own horn. I feel like I should give the late, great Bill Paxton a shout-out, since he summarizes it nicely in the incredibly underrated 1994 film, True Lies, when his character says, “You react in a microsecond without thinking.” Of course, he’s talking about fake spy training, but I think it works for parenthood, too. You put your kid first, whether you mean to or not.
You’ll Find Yourself Doing More Chores And Various Other Tasks For Your Family
Does anyone else secretly congratulate themselves when they do chores for the benefit of others? Like, when the load of laundry you just folded had exactly zero items from your own closet, do you think, “Man, I am such a good partner and parent!” No? Just me? Oh.
You’ll See Things From Their Perspective
Sometimes, I’m floored at the level at which my 2 year old appears to be understanding the world around him. His reactions to expressions, to routines, and to feelings and emotions constantly keep me on my toes. I’m frequently trying to get down on his level, to see what he might see and feel what he feels, in order to better parent him. Not only is it a great lesson in empathy, it’s also a legit workout since squatting down to be next to him works plenty of leg muscles.
You’ll Read More Books, Draw More Pictures, And Use Your Imagination More
My son’s dad and I both work in creative fields, so it’s entirely possible that we take this one a bit more seriously than other households and put a pretty heavy emphasis on books and crafts and stories. And, of course, being creative and being a good person are not prerequisites for one another (I mean, almost every evil genius in every cartoon I’ve seen is beyond creative). However, I think that making time for simple art and expression, and to think outside the (crayon) box is never a bad thing.
You’ll Get Better At Finding The Good In Things
Are we totally out of my son’s favorite snack? Are technical difficulties interrupting his favorite cartoon? Is the weather requiring us to stay indoors? I might be secretly fuming, but I promise I’ll find at least one nice thing to say to him to help us transition to the next activity.
You’ll (Probably) Watch Your Language
Of course, swearing definitely doesn't mean you're a bad person (if it did, I'd be f*cked). Neither my partner nor I were stereotypical sailors before, but we just got more careful after our son arrived. Even more so after he started talking. Definitely more so after he started repeating us on a regular basis.
You’ll Become More Patient, In General
My son is at that awesome stage of wanting to do things, like zip up his jacket, wash his hands, and even walk the dog, all by himself. Of course, some of the activities he’s dying to master are simply things he’s not ready for, but some of them he can technically do, it just takes time. A lot of time, in fact.
However, his cuteness pretty much stirs up automatic responses in me, and I have no choice but to wait patiently next to him and encourage him as he fumbles with his zipper. Kids are amazing, aren't they?
You’ll Start Making An Effort To Keep Healthy Food Around The House…
Since “eating healthy” is a frequent resolution that people strive to keep, I feel good about lumping it into the idea of being a better person. I mean, it’s one thing if I feel inclined to eat cookies for breakfast, because I’m an adult and no one can stop me. However, giving my son the idea this is OK? I’m not comfortable with that, which is why I typically eat my cookies in private and then offer him a banana, hoping he doesn't notice the crumbs on my shirt.
...And To Not Consume Screen Garbage During Regular Daytime Hours
Unless, of course, he’s napping, during which all bets are off and you will totally find me binging on Lifetime’s UnREAL. Screen time doesn’t count if the other person in the room is unconscious, right?
You’ll Be A Better Listener
I mean, you kind of have to be a good listening when you have little ones, because sometimes kids are simply hard to understand. When our son is talking, my partner and I are getting really good at the look that silently says, "Did you catch that?” and also the one that you give to say, "Um, no, definitely not. Did you?”
Although, listening closely also gives me an excuse to stare intensely at my son's cute face, so I'm not complaining.