"I want to be just like my dad when I grow up - only without the drinking and smoking." One of my son's friends, at only eleven, summed up the downside of those two wonderful/bewildering neighborhoods: adulthood and parenthood. Now somebody's watching what you do.
You can't get away with seeming invincible and omniscient once your kids hit puberty. They see you at your worst - in the morning, with your glamorous Bedhead Bouffant; in the afternoon, when the remote isn't cooperating, so you throw it against the wall;
in the evening, when you drink so much that you're telling the same boring story over in one conversation and don't realize it.
Even on Monday, when you're too hungover to go to work, those little pitchers are aiming their big ears in your direction. There's an invisible abacus they're tallying in their heads - Dad says not to lie, but he's not technically sick, now is he? Dad says to be responsible, but his choice to drink too much last night led to his "skip day."
As a parent, being a "good person" is kind of a moving target. I'll be the first to admit it: I love reading celebrity gossip. Now, I don't smoke, drink, gamble, or shop too much - in fact, I'm considering developing a really wicked vice as a New Year's resolution! I've got to get some pizazz in my life, you people!
But what I know I do that I shouldn't is to judge celebrities in a harsh way. You may have read my previous blog post about my antipathy for Julia Roberts, who always seems to be annoyed in every picture you see of her. Even though I'm making a valiant effort not to throw stones, I just keep hearing myself judging people who are rich and famous.
So am I fulfilling my mandate to set a good example for my son? I know that when I say, "Do you think she meant to wear that outfit?" in my snarky tone about some celebrity, my son rolls his eyes.
Would I be surprised if my boy grew up to be sarcastic and critical? It does weigh on my mind, but I haven't found a way to tone down my cheeky comments yet. Just as my son's friend's father might be shocked if his son grew up to be a heavy drinker and chain smoker.
But why shouldn't our kids drink to excess? After all, if Charlie Sheen can drunkenly trash a hotel room and still make a million dollars an episode for his sitcom, then what harm can it be?
Maybe the moral is to stop expecting entertainers and sports figures to be role models for our children, but to take back that mantle as parents. If we do our jobs well now, maybe they'll remember that, even if we stumbled occasionally, we lived what we taught them, and that may be enough to keep them on the right road.
Work in Progress
Sometimes I wonder what I can teach my son.
I can't even help him with his homework anymore.
Then, when I think he's not listening,
I realize he's picked up my bad habits.
Make me aware of my impact.
Let me see through Your Jeweler's glass
the gem I will be and not the rough edges and flaws.
Count to ten for me before
I open my craw with a cutting comment.
Help me apply the Golden Rule,
especially in my own home,
starting from the heart and spreading exponentially.
Give me good qualities and soothing words,
and bless me with a legacy of kindness.
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