Setting An Example Can Be Exhausting

roleI am determined to give Cricket and Ladybug the best chance of reaching adulthood without messing them up. I am not talking about seeking perfection in parenting, which is impossible in most ways. We all make mistakes, which we can learn from.

My own mistakes throughout my life are not ones I need my kids to repeat. I can tell them about the mistakes and have them learn from what I’ve experienced, if possible. They could still go on to make the same mistakes. I know it. Anything is possible.

No, I’m not looking to worry myself about this endlessly, but at the same time, being mindful of how I set an example is important. It’s worth thinking about. Not worrying too much about, but thinking about. Taking the time to think: is this what I want them to do when they are older?

If what I do is something I don’t want them to do, then it’s probably not the best idea to have them see me do whatever it is. You could argue that kids are able to learn as much from seeing what we do that’s not “good” as much as from what we do that is “good.” Sometimes this is the case. I learned by seeing my parents argue a lot that I didn’t want to be in a marriage where I argued a lot. That ended up being the case.

Given the choice, I’d rather they learn the good stuff from me and let them learn the other stuff from either what I share with them or by seeing other people commit whatever the actions are.

I also think that each person needs to decide for themselves what is okay and what is not okay, within reason. Obviously, all the big stuff we agree on: no kids should be abused, neglected, and so on. The only ones who disagree with that are probably sadists to avoid. Everything else is up for debate. “Everything else” is too general a term, but it’ll do for now.

Just to share a few of my own actions related to setting an example, both what I do like and what I want to change:

STUFF I DO THAT I THINK SETS A GOOD EXAMPLE:

  • No drinking, smoking, and the only drug I do is COFFEE
  • Telling my kids I love them every day, perhaps too often, and meaning it
  • Eating LOTS of veggies
  • Not eating sweets every day
  • Not watching TV while they’re awake
  • Doing art with them
  • Showing my wife how much I love her through my actions and words, both
  • Treating my kids with respect
  • Never spanking, abusing, or neglecting my kids
  • MEANING what I say
  • Trying, even if I don’t always succeed, in following the Eight-fold path of Buddhism

STUFF I DO THAT I WANT TO WORK ON, BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE THE EXAMPLE IT SETS:

  • Drinking coffee. I have no succeeded in quitting for good
  • Taking too long to finish personal projects, such as the sequel to my novel
  • Going for seconds at a meal when it’s really about desire for seconds more than it is about hunger
  • Being a wallflower at social events

I could probably think of more for each category, but I just wanted to give examples. I really don’t feel everyone should have the same perspective I do on most of this, except for how we treat people.

And yes, it is exhausting, trying to set the example you want to set, trying to be the role model you think you should be as a parent. There are times I would love to skip the salad and have a large bowl of sugary cereal for dinner, but I say “cereal is for breakfast” because that’s how I want them to think.

So I may have to collapse into bed some nights from the effort of being the kind of parent I want to be, but it’s all worthwhile.

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About J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis writes. He is also the author of The Goblin Road, a fantasy novel, and The Rabbit List. He was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.
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