Professional racing cyclist Lance Armstrong was basically straight faced during his recent interview with Oprah Winfrey. He barely betrayed any emotion until he started talking about his children. Lance was describing how his son had been defending his Dad’s innocence to his classmates who were repeating the doping allegations reported in the news. When Lance discovered his son was sticking up for him, he knew he had to tell the truth about using banned substances to achieve some of his Tour de France victories. Lance’s voice quivered and tears filled his eyes as he described how he had told his son the truth.
Lance’s reaction was a reinforcement of something I have long believed. Our children make us better people. We may be ashamed of something we’ve done in front of the whole world but nothing makes us feel so bad as letting our children down or having to admit to them we’ve been wrong.
Many times my concern about what my children would think of me has guided my actions and decisions. I may have been tempted to do something I knew was unkind, dishonest or less than exemplary but then I’d stop and think about what my actions might do to my children’s image of me or to their concept of what was right and wrong. I don’t know how often I have been stopped in my tracks and prevented from doing something foolish because I considered whether what I was doing was something I would want my children to imitate.
I can think of times when both my children have set me back on the straight and narrow by reminding me of things I had taught them but was forgetting myself. It is a humbling experience.
Sometimes I sink into phases where I’m lazy about my health, community responsibilities, career goals or family commitments. Thinking about the kind of example I want to set for my children snaps me out of those indolent phases and gives me the inspiration to move on.
I have failed many times at being a good human being, doing things that weren’t right or kind or honest. But I am absolutely certain that without my children there would be many more of those instances. I am a much better person because of my kids.
We all reach the point in our lives when we realize our parents aren’t the perfect people we thought they were when we were small. However if we truly believe they love us and are trying their best to be good parents we can accept their imperfections and forgive them for the things we think they did wrong.
Lance Armstrong says his son has forgiven him. According to the disgraced athlete his son said. “Look, I still love you. You’re my dad. This won’t change that.” Lance is a lucky parent to have such a child.
Most children are very forgiving when their parents fail to be the kind of example they should. That unconditional trust should make us feel even more accountable to our kids and more mindful of our responsibility as parents to be good role models.
Children are an incredible gift and they make us better people. I think Lance Armstrong has figured that out. Until he showed his vulnerability as a father in his interview with Oprah I had a hard time believing he was really sorry for what he had done. He clearly is deeply saddened by the impact his choices have had on his kids and that should give him hope that he can change for the better and live the rest of his life with a greater measure of integrity.