When I became a parent, I became a better person.
I learned to love unconditionally - omnicondition-ally. From the moment I first held my son in my arms, I recognized the unfathomable responsibility and honour with which I had been entrusted.
My every word and action would influence - for good or ill - the well-being of this precious person. He would learn from what I tell him, what he overhears, how I relate to others, and how I act in our home and in the world.
I had to set an example and be the best person I could be - not perfect - just a fallible human being striving to be my best, to be honest and kind, to be unselfish and giving, and to be a good father.
In spite of my best intentions, I made mistakes. I did my best to be fair. I certainly didn't want my middle child to feel neglected as I had felt (even though I wasn't neglected).
Recently, when my little niece showed me her wiggly tooth, I recalled the tooth fairy leaving a dollar for each of my children's teeth, but I could recall fewer fairy visits for my middle child.
I panicked. Had I neglected him in spite of my best efforts?
I asked him, "Do you remember the tooth fairy giving you money for your teeth?"
"Only when I told you and Mom," he answered.
He later produced a bottle of baby teeth.
When my kids would do things that irritated me, I soon realized that most of the time they were reflecting aspects of my own personality - or my wife's - that I had to acknowledge and make peace with.
Along with my patients, they were my great teachers in life. Our relationships prompted me to be more attentive and mindful, and they taught me to put their interests above my own.
Unlike my polite patients, my kids would tell me when I was wrong or when they thought I was a goof.
I cherish the rituals of our family dinners, drives to school and story time. Every night, I would make up a new story, and they would wake me up if I drifted off in midsentence.
I loved playing with them in the playground, riding the train in Stanley Park and taking them to movies. When she was a toddler, my daughter would hop onto my lap during the scary parts, and at the climax of every movie, she had to go to the washroom. We have a DVD collection with all those movies - so I was able to see what I had missed.
When one of my sons was unable to recall the moment he was able to cycle without training wheels, it reminded me of a medical student I had mentored who forgot the excitement of the first delivery he attended with me.
To me those moments remained vivid in my memory and I was at first disappointed, but I realized that the things we do for others we do for them and not ourselves. It is giving forward. Though they may forget who taught them, they still have learned.
All that we've learned has come from countless teachers, and we owe a debt to many that cannot be repaid. When we can't give back, we give forward.
Each of my children has inspired me. From the perspective of a loving parent, seeing the beauty in each of them has helped me to see the beauty in others. Every person is someone's child, and I know how a parent loves a child at every age and in every culture.
Seeing my children discover their special talents reminded me of my own passions and showed me what I might do. Seeing them grow and discover their potentials has opened windows and helped me discover mine.
My sons' and daughter's gift for music inspired me to return to songwriting. My son's achievements in sports inspired me to push towards my own athletic limits.
When my son starting pumping iron and became one of the stronger boys on his football team, I realized that he was using my genes. He inspired me to return to the weight room and ultimately discover that I could chest press 300 pounds.
My children have been my life's three most precious gifts, and I have been enriched by the love they have inspired in me. This above all else has made my life richer and fuller than it otherwise would have been.
. Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician and writer. His Healthwise column appears regularly in this paper. You can read more about achieving your positive potential for health at davidicuswong.wordpress. com.