As I’ve been vacationing with my own children and as the year is drawing to a close, I’ve been thinking about the idea of leaving a legacy. It seems to me that the idea of leaving a legacy can be very important to parents. By this I mean the notion that after I am gone, my children will be my legacy.
I don’t know if many people actually have children in order to leave a legacy. Perhaps they do. This would count as one of my “selfish” reasons for having children. But even if one does not have children in order to leave a legacy, idea of legacy can present itself later. Certainly the idea occurs to me as I watch my kids. With any luck, they will continue in this world long after I do not.
I imagine some people will insist that this is an argument in favor of the genetic basis of parenthood–after all, if your children carry your genes, than it is your genetic line that follows on into the future. But I think for many people the most important things that children carry into the future is not genetics.
Genetics may determine whether a child is tall or short or has brown or blue eyes, but parents shape their children in a myriad of ways that seem far more important to me. We teach them right from wrong (though of course we do not all agree on what is right or wrong.) We model adult relationships for them–how to treat the people they will care for and how, too, to treat the people they do not care for.
In my view a good parent is necessarily an influential parent. I don’t mean to say that the child is the parent’s creation–there’s clearly a personality underneath that is all the child’s own. But parents teach children what to do with whatever hand they’ve been dealt via genetics. When I watch my children, when I consider my legacy, that’s what I think about.