Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Leading by Example

Sigh. Being a parent is hard. And I write that in my whiniest, saddest, poor me writing voice.

But what’s hard about it isn’t the stuff I usually moan about. It’s not the driving all over the state from activity to event and back again; or building a diorama of an Incan village the night before it's due. It's not holding back a little one's hair while she barfs into a bucket, or running to Wal-Mart at 6:30 on a Sunday morning before church so that you can buy the red visor your kid needs for a softball game later that afternoon. All of that stuff: piece of cake.

It’s the decisions and sticking with rules and consequences that suck. And – I’m going to maybe be a little bit too honest here – it's hard to set a good example for your kids. I struggle with this, and worry about being a hypocrite. It makes me feel terribly guilty.

Everyone tells you that kids learn by example. So I try really hard to set a good one for my critters, but sometimes I screw up. Like when I made a seriously smart ass response to an incident with Hollywood’s confirmation teacher. Hollywood’s teacher accused 15 out of the 18 kids in her class of plagiarism on their saint reports. Confirmation Teacher told Hollywood that she knew she couldn’t have written the report because the words used in it weren’t those of a junior high kid. I watched Hollywood work on that report. She didn’t steal the content – she didn’t plagiarize. In my not-so-wise parenting moment, I jokingly told Hollywood she should re-write her report to dumb it down so the teacher knew she wasn't copying it. Something like this:
Saint Cecilia was, like, a totally wicked cool chick. She’s, like, the patron saint of music, and I, like, chose her for my saint because I, like, think music is whack. When she was forced to marry a dude who, like, totally made her want to hurl, she didn’t, like, completely freak out - instead she went all serious and kept thinking about God in her mind…
You get my point. Yeah, it was sort of funny, but not a great parenting moment. Instead of teaching her to take the high road, I taught her how to be a smart ass. Something, incidentally, that she needs no help learning. I should have held my tongue. Which is true a lot of the time. I really should talk a lot less in general. That would serve me well.

And then there’s being healthy. I’m always telling the kids to eat healthy snacks. I don’t keep a lot of junk around the house because I’ll eat it. But we have things like chips and sweeti-ish cereal and if the kids ask for those as snacks, I’ll say “No – why don’t you eat a piece of fruit instead.” But after they go to bed, do I go for a banana? Hell no! I’ll dig to the back of the highest cupboard and find a chocolate truffle that I’d hidden there. I already suffer guilt for eating chocolate, but the parental guilt on top of the 'this is dumb, your ass isn't going to shrink by eating this' kind of guilt is a double whammy.

Lately we’ve been trying to get Hollywood to be nicer to The Boy. Hollywood is a lovely child, and I love her more than all of the chocolate truffles in the world, but… She tends to bark at her brother way more than she should. She flips out on him and goes into super bossy, authoritarian, terror mode - especially when she’s stressed or tired. It’s something we’ve been working on with her, and to be fair, I think she's improving. But last night she had another incident where she went nutso on him and The Boy ended up in tears. She got privileges removed and will hopefully learn from her actions. But here again, the guilt... I'm feeling incredibly guilty about the times when I do the same thing (snap at the kids and freak out when I shouldn’t) on a stressful day!

I could go on, but this post is already too long. Mommy guilt. What a powerful emotion. I suppose you just move on and do the best you can every day. But there’s a lot of nagging in the back of my head that wouldn’t be there if I could find it in me to be a better example to my kids. I suppose like everything in life, I should try to focus on, and celebrate the successful examples I am setting for my kids. Because I suspect there are a few good things that they're learning from me too.


Tanya said...

What a jerk Sunday school teacher. If I'd have been accused of plagiarism, I'd be mad, too. Is there a saint for plagiarists?

Jenster said...

Ouch! This well written post seems to be crushing my toes. In fact, are you me??

Because I suspect there are a few good things that they're learning from me too.

Absolutely, Monnik. It's so obvious you're a great mom!

Steph said...

Okay, but do you STEAL their Easter chocolate? I, um, yeah. Ahem. Sigh.

I'm with you on many of your points. I soooo agree setting a good example is hard.

I've been enjoying your blog!

ALF said...

But the point is that you're trying. And you realize you need to work on some things. If you didn't, then it would be bad.

Debbielou said...

You've made me really laugh as when my kids are after something unhealthy to eat - I always say " Have a banana!!" I also then raid the fridge when they have gone to bed for the secret chocolate stash!

As a child I would question my Mum and she would always say " Do as I say not as I do"

Mom In Scrubs said...

I'm with Alf. Awareness is half the battle; maybe more. Your kids will be aware on some level of your awareness, and that is what counts. I think it's great that you talk about this stuff with your kids because so many children think of their parents as soooo perfect and it makes it harder on the child when he/she screws up. (speaking from experience here) The fact that you are not perfect and that you don't pretend to BE perfect is sort of allowing your kids to accept their own imperfection while realizing that they need to work on it. So, see? You ARE leading by example!

You're a great mom. No one's perfect. Those who think they are have more problems than the rest of us who aren't deluding ourselves.

Love ya!

Barb said...

Yeah, I "oopsed" in front of my son the other day while driving and dropped the "F" bomb at another guy who cut me off. I felt bad immediately. On the other hand, letting your kids know that you are not perfect (but try as hard as you can to be close) is a good thing. It was a real stunner to learn my parents weren't perfect after years of believing they were. Not sure if I've recovered yet!

Travis Erwin said...

Just the fact you have thought about these things and posted it puts you way ahead of most of the parents I see.