One time, a married acquaintance of mine was struggling with the decision of whether or not to have children. She seemed to want my opinion at the time, so I gave it to her.

I told her having children was the best thing I ever did. I think, if I remember correctly, I said being a parent got me out of myself, to not be so selfish.

Later, she told me she decided to not have children because she said she’s too selfish.

Well, maybe I helped her decide, only not in the way I had intended.

Character development is something I strive for on occasion, but I guess not everyone shares my path.

Like I said, I’m glad I had kids. They’re fun, and they’ve taught me a lot of things. Many of those things didn’t involve direct teaching. No, they just taught me things by being themselves, by just existing.

They instructed me, like I said, how to be more unselfish. As a young lass, I mostly only thought about myself and of doing things for myself.

When I had my first kid, I realized this was the first person on the planet I would actually die for to protect.

I learned to care for the baby — changing diapers, feeding and cleaning the little bugger. As parents, we eventually learn to keep doing right things for our kids, even we when don’t feel like it.

Then his brother came along two years later, and I had my hands full.

They taught me things, like the importance of ducking when I changed their diapers and how one brother will automatically take care of his younger brother without even being asked.

For example, the oldest, Rodger, kept trying to teach Andy how to walk, carrying Andy around the house under his arms until he could walk. I’m pretty sure Andy was younger than 1 when Rodger was doing this. I don’t know if Rodger was just trying to help Andy or if he was perplexed he himself could walk, but Andy couldn’t and this disturbed Rodger. It probably was a mixture of both. We humans are complex.

Then, four years later, Robert came along, and then there were three.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still can be self-centered and still have to work on that, but the boys (men, now) still are good at getting me out of myself.

When they were young, I learned to put their needs ahead of mine — taking care of them with meals, reading bedtime stories when I hardly had the energy to even lift my own arm, and carting them to soccer and baseball games, to school and their friends’ houses. I even became a den leader in Cub Scouts and took them to 4-H meetings.

These are things parents do. Now, you might say taking care of your own kids is selfish, and you’re right — but it’s a positive kind of selfish as opposed to the destructive, negative kind. It makes me feel good.

My kids also have taught me how to play and enjoy things. I can get too serious sometimes, and when the guys were younger, we’d go to the park and just play. What’s so great about playing? It’s good for the soul and makes people happy. Besides, it’s a stress reliever.

There were times we’d have squirt-gun fights in the yard or play tennis when it’s pitch dark on the court and we couldn’t see the ball until it was a few feet in front of our faces. They’re still helping me learn how to play — I get caught up in cleaning and cooking on the weekends and forget about playing. There’s so much work to do! Even this past New Year’s Day, we all went to the Bethel College tennis courts and played tennis (with our own rules) for a while, even though it was a bit chilly outside. It was their idea.

We’ve played card games during the years, as well as Trivial Pursuit and other board games.

They’ve also helped me have a sense of humor about life and to not take things so seriously, which I have a habit of doing. They’re also good at pointing out my flaws (you mean I have some?), so I guess they help me with personal character development in more ways than one.

They tell me I ask too many questions, but how am I supposed to find anything out if I don’t ask questions, I think. Then I have to remember they usually only tell me things when I don’t ask questions.

The guys also have taught me the importance of unconditional love and about the wonder of life. They’ve shown me challenges, and we’ve gone through unexplored territory together.

When I became a parent, I had no experience, and they had no experience being people, so we’ve done all right.

We all love each other no matter what. They’re still teaching me things, like how to parent a kid who’s going to art school in Chicago, and my oldest, who owns a computer repair shop in North Newton now, attempts to teach me things about computers. I really don’t want to learn, but he tries. I just want to be able to use computers. Besides, that’s one reason he’s around, right?

Another one of my kids teaches me about the importance of standing up for what you believe in, no matter how unpopular it is.

Thanks, kids.

Wendy Nugent is the Accent page editor, Play editor and assistant photo editor at The Newton Kansan.