The Apple Has Fallen

Parenting comes with lots of responsibilities.

They can range anywhere from minor (getting them to guitar lessons) to major (trying to teach them right from wrong.)  I homeschool my son, but in a sense, all parents are teachers.  From the moment your child is born, you are teaching them.  If you stop and think about it, it’s pretty scary.  Especially when you consider the fact that some of us aren’t really qualified to teach a dog to heel, let alone teach a child to live!

Regardless of qualifications, here we are.  I’ve been trying hard for the last twelve years or so to raise children that don’t cause people to run and hide in their closets when they see them coming.

I’ve been thinking about all of the similarities between me and my kids, and especially me and my son.

He and I spend a LOT of time together.  Literally almost ALL the time, really.  And it occurred to me that it doesn’t really matter what you try to teach–your children live their lives based on how you live yours.

And I thought just teaching them was scary!

I won’t say my son is exactly like me, because that wouldn’t be true.  He has so many good things that I don’t have.  Some of the things I’ve tried hard to teach him have stuck.  He is almost unbelievably open-minded and accepting.  He has great compassion.  One great aspect of his personality is that he has a tendency to see things in a very black and white way.  He doesn’t let people be wishy-washy.  He has this, “Okay, what’s it going to be?” thing that I can’t really explain.  And yet, he also has the ability to be very diplomatic.

Sometimes, though, I look at him and it’s like looking in a mirror.  It’s not looks I’m talking about–people say he looks like me, but I can see his dad in so many of his features.  He was spared my nose, thank God, and has his dad’s mouth (literally–figuratively it’s mine, believe me.)  But his mannerisms and expressions are so like me.  The little things he comes out with sometimes shock me, not because they are shocking, but because they are exactly something I would say.

In short, I’m a role model.  If that doesn’t alarm you, then nothing does.

While seeing my little expressions on my son’s face is amusing, it makes me hyper-aware of all those faults that I desperately hope don’t become a legacy.  I so much don’t want him to suffer from the same self-esteem issues that I’ve suffered all my life, so I have to watch making negative comments about myself.  My tongue tends to be sharp, and bitterly sarcastic at times, and already I’ve had to call him down for that.  I tend to worry obsessively over things, and agonize over decisions.  It can be crippling.

One of the worst things I see–a corpse floating to the surface of the old gene pool, if you will–is my supernatural ability to hold a grudge.  Oh! How I’ve tried to let this go over the years.  Though some would disagree, I’m sure, to me this is my worst quality.  I sometimes walk purposefully into  a room only to realize that I have no idea why I went in there in the first place, but I can tell you with photographic clarity some mean thing someone said to me in elementary school.  Really.

And I can see my son doing this, as well.  I can see the way he holds on to things that people do or say to him.  Heaven help you if he washes his hands of you, because he will never let it go.  When he’s finished with someone, he’s finished.  Period. I can’t imagine a greater motivation to improve my own life.  I never cared much about myself and how I turned out, but I’d do anything–even change my old hard-headed ways–to make my kids into decent people.

Of all the responsibilities of parenthood, this role model thing is by far the most serious.  Our children absorb everything we do or say.  Others will influence them throughout their lives–peers, teachers, relatives–but never doubt that you are the one.  Take a good look in the mirror–that face you see looking back out at you?  That will be your kid in a few years.

You’d better make sure you like what you see.

 

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17 thoughts on “The Apple Has Fallen

  1. I’ve thought the same thing about me. I have bad habits that I hate to see recycled in my own kids. Obviously we can’t spare them from all of it but just being aware has to account for something. Also, apologizing when you’re wrong or pointing out what you know is a shortcoming in yourself can be a good teaching tool. I know parents who would NEVER dream of apologizing to their kids or admitting fault. I think that is a shame since our kids don’t need us to be perfect but they always appreciate our honesty. Some of the best talks/bonding moments I’ve had with Madison have begun over me relating to her life with a story of how I’ve blown it in the past. I think kids like being reminded that we too were young once and we too make mistakes. You think?

    • I certainly hope you’re right.

      I’ve never understood why parents think it’s so awful to apologize to your kid. What do they think will happen? My grandmother would no sooner apologize to me than run out into the middle of the road naked. She’s not a bad person–it’s just not something she can do. So I’ve made it my point in life to not be that way. How important is that lesson? When you mess up, you own up–it’s as simple as that. Just because we won’t apologize doesn’t mean our kids don’t know we made a mistake, and in my humble opinion, that would just make us look foolish.

  2. My daughter has taught me a multitude of lessons in her two short years on the earth, but I believe the most important among them has been humility. I hope it’s a lesson that has come full circle by the time she sets off on her own.

  3. Parenting is a tough gig. You are right that there is a lot of pressure. It is our responsibility to ensure that they have the right foundation of morals and values that will enable them to make the right decisions when the time comes. They are also always watching us, aren’t they. Being a good role model is absolutely important!! -LV

  4. It’s a scary thing, yes. My wife and I have a “Golden Parenting Rule” we call LBE – Lead By Example. We know we both have faults and we try our best not to pass them on to our kids by them just observing us. Has it worked? To a degree. It’s impossible to mind yourself 100% of the time, but we like to think that we’re doing ok with it.

    Unfortunately, my wife can be very sarcastic and our oldest boy (16) has picked up on that trait.

    • I think the most important thing is being able to talk to your kids when you make a mistake. I know for little guys you can’t really do that, but as they get older, it makes them feel good because you admit your mess-ups, and also because you think enough of them talk to them about things. If you try to never falter in front of your kids, you’re just setting yourself up for a big fall. Plus, I think you can set unrealistic expectations for your kids, and then they can’t cope when they invariably fail.

  5. What an excellent reminder. I see some things my oldest (7yrs) old does and I cringe, knowing he is echoing me and my personality. Funny how kids can help you become better people, eh? I’ll check my mirror and my reflection more frequently.

  6. What I nicely written piece. How were you able to turn a phrase that describes me so well?
    “One of the worst things I see–a corpse floating to the surface of the old gene pool, if you will–is my supernatural ability to hold a grudge. Oh! How I’ve tried to let this go over the years. Though some would disagree, I’m sure, to me this is my worst quality. I sometimes walk purposefully into a room only to realize that I have no idea why I went in there in the first place, but I can tell you with photographic clarity some mean thing someone said to me in elementary school. Really.”
    You know what else you have going for you besides mad writing skills? Self awareness. That goes a long way in tempering all evils. -Ellen

  7. It’s hard hard hard work to be a parent and I think awareness of how we hope to help our kids is more than half the battle. Our kids also are who they are and that’s ok too, but teaching the foundation of compassion and kindness, which you clearly do, is a great start. My husband is like your son…when he is wronged and he is done, he is done. I am much more mushly…it takes longer for me to unravel the web. But it doesn’t make me or him right, it just makes us different. Parenting is hard and we all just do the best we can to make our minis the best people than can be as they are little or big.

    • Shannon–I like that–“it doesn’t make me or him right, it just makes us different.” I’ll pull that out in my next disagreement with one of my people!

      Also, sisterhood–they say realizing you have a problem is the first step to curing it, but I don’t know. It’s been a while!

      Lindsey–what is the secret of that? Remembering the nice things people say? It seems like I can’t remember those things very well, but I can bring up all of those mean things. I hope I can figure that out some day.

  8. Not anywhere close to being a mom, but the thought of my future children having the same issues that plague me still is pretty terrifying. I don’t want them to be worried about their body image, I want them to be able to take a compliment gracefully, and unlike me, I want them to remember more of the nice things people have said rather than the injustices they have faced or the mean words people have said to them.

  9. Though my son is just a little more than 2, it’s quite obvious how he resembles my wife and me. He looks like me, but he has her temperment. He is stubborn like me, but sweet like her. So on and so forth. It’s amazing how these traits start so early and so overtly.

  10. We’re a blended family with multiple marriages, divorces, moms and dads. There’s a lot of baggage and issues. My 3 girls 16,8,7 are pretty resillient. They seem to appreciate their mom and I being human. We talk a lot. If their mom and I are role models to them, it’s on how to do things and not to do things.

    I hope my girls see in me, a well meaning, loving, attentive figure who admits his faults and tries his hardest.

    sometime, when we put too much pressure on ourselves as parents, the kids feel the stress and rebel.

    just my 2 pennies.

    great post

  11. It’s never too late to like yourself. That is what our children see; that we are gentle with ourselves. We screw up and they see it’s okay. Showing a child you matter as well shows them how they should feel about themselves.
    Oh Gawd, I’m gonna quote a movie, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” The Help.
    I guess as my boys have grown up I’ve felt the most important thing to instill in them has been self esteem. If they feel good about themselves they won’t be afraid to try anything.
    Great post.

  12. I think about this OFTEN! My children have tempers and can lash out… ooopsie. Watching them pretend play as parents I don’t see it, thank gawd. But I know it’s in there the monkey see and the monkey do. This was a great post.

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