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.