At her sentencing hearing earlier this year, Felicity Huffman finally had to face the consequences of what she had done. She had attempted to manipulate her daughter’s SAT scores by bribing a test proctor and she had done this to help her get into a college she didn’t deserve to get into it. She, along with many other parents, had even been willing to commit tax fraud—donating to a fake charity run by the orchestrator of the scheme—in order to get away with it.
As far as crimes go, it’s certainly not the worst thing a person had ever done. There are many parents who do far more obscene and evil things to children than break the rules so they can get ahead in life, but still, it was dishonest and unfair and a terrible example to set for her children. As a result, she had been shamed and humiliated and was now facing time in prison. It had been a reckoning and a wake up call for her. As she told the judge, “I realize now with my mothering that love and truth must go hand in hand and that my love coming at the expense of truth is not real love.”
Every dad should learn from this example—let the lengths and the depths that Huffman’s ego and poor judgement took her teach us something. Your job as a parent is not to create success for your children. It’s not to keep them in a bubble where everything is wonderful and they never feel pain (Huffman never told her daughter what she was up to—and she took her to ice cream after the test). Your job is to love them, yes, but love them for who they are, not what image you build for them. Your job is to help them become the best that they are capable of being—not to puff them up, or to cheat so they can get ahead.
Be honest with your kids. Be fair. Be a good example. Show them that the morals you have taught them and the platitudes you’ve uttered are true. That they matter. That you stick to them, no matter what. That’s what love is. Nothing more and nothing less.