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Fatherly Forum

How I Realized That What’s Best For Me Is Best For My Family

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My 13-year-old daughter told me that I should put my kids before anything. Is she being selfish, or am I the selfish one?

Here’s the cold, harsh truth: If you don’t do what’s best for you, you can’t do what’s best for your kids. A strong, loving family structure is almost always going to be what’s “best” for your kids.

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Of course, what’s best for your kids is not the same things as what your kids want. It’s highly unlikely that they know what’s best for them.

My qualifications to talk about this: I was the child of a single mom, I dated several single moms, and I married one — we have been married for 30 years. Moreover, as a parent, my kids have had friends who have had moms who have remarried — and some who shouldn’t have.

If you don’t do what’s best for you, you can’t do what’s best for your kids.

I married a woman who had a 12-year-old son, and moved the 2 of them away from a life where they were comfortable to build a new life as a family. Did she marry me because it was the best thing for her son? No. She married me because it was the best thing for her (although she really did believe that it was a good thing to have a strong, benevolent masculine influence in her son’s life). But because of that, we were able to do things for our son that she could not have done otherwise. Did he resent the move at the time? Absolutely. Did we become a family? Absolutely.

My personal validation as a parent occurred about a year after we were married, when we were out at my in-laws farm in Kentucky. Our son, now 13, had gotten into a stupid fuss with his mom, which then spread to his grandparents. As he stomped out of the house intending to run away, he cried out loudly, “Nobody loves me but Tom.” Voila: I was a real parent.

And today my wife and I are the favorite grandma and grandpa to 2 adorable little ones (and they’re always more adorable when they’re your grandkids).

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This is our granddaughter at about 2 years old (she’s gorgeous, isn’t she?), getting a bath in the porcelain basin I had been bathed in more than 50 years before. We had brought the tree inside because it was in full bloom. It just seemed to make a great portrait.

This is what it means to be family. This is why you decide to gamble on joining your life with someone else’s. You end up building a life together that’s greater than the sum of its parts. When you make the right decisions, they’re not just good for you, they’re good for the family.

Tom Kehoe is a firearms instructor, martial artist, bonsai-ka, and longtime journalist. Read more from Quora below: