I became a father later in life. I’m 57 years old and have three children under the age of seven. Over the years, I have seen many of my friends change after having children, but I never fully appreciated how much being a father would change me.
Having a child forces you to look long and hard at your own behavior because your children imitate everything you do. I was forced to do exactly that when my oldest son and I were watching the speeches at the Democratic Convention. At one point a speaker said, “these are the values of Democrats… these are our values.” The following dialog ensued:
“Dad, what’s a value?”
“Well, a value is a kind of feeling or an idea that helps people make important decisions. A value teaches us how to behave.”
“So Dad, when you deserve a time-out, does that mean you have bad values?”
My seven-year-old son is a little too young to be going existential on me, but he did force me to think about my own life, my values and my behavior. How do you explain to yourself, let alone your child, that the values we profess to have are not always the values we show by our behavior? How many of us would dare ask our children what they thought of our values based on our behavior at home?
Maybe I should have said that values are more of an ideal. Or maybe I should have said that values are not often discussed and examined—except during political campaigns.
Aren’t my son’s questions something we should be routinely asking ourselves? It is an important question for so many aspects of our lives and the decisions we make. The answers aren’t so simple for me. I spend most of my life in the courtroom or at my law office. Does that mean I don’t value my family as much as my career? Does it mean that I value helping victims or helping myself? I am not talking about motives here; by what measure can we tell what our own REAL values are?
When I’m in trial, I guarantee you that the jurors base their decision as much on credibility as they do on the evidence. Credibility is established in court, and out, by the consistency between what we say and what we do. Values become the only true evidence. If you don’t believe me, ask a child.