Sunday, June 16, 2013

What Makes a Good Role Model?

"Red beer" is what Claire calls my second glass of wine before dinner hits the table.

Until recently, she's seemed blissfully oblivious to my actions. Now that my daughter's talking up a storm, she's gotten herself nice and busy holding up a mirror to my bad habits.

"Red beer" isn't the only one. We settle in for story time at the local library. The librarian barely gets through the title of Five Little Ducks before Claire yells, "I have to check my email," and runs off to the five little computers sitting all in a row.

Yup, technology trumps good old-fashioned human interaction these days. That's the kind of lesson Claire learns in this house.

If I weren't so full of self-loathing, I'd probably be happy that my child sees me as a role model now. I'm also a bit of a perfectionist (probably related to the self-loathing), so I don't want my daughter to be like me, I want her to be a better version of me.

I tell myself that there isn't anything wrong with red beer, and there isn't. Ask the French or Italians. I just have a tendency to want my daughter to think that I am perfect, to believe that I have all the answers and to see me as the patron saint of virtuosity.

I think I'm afraid that if she sees my vulnerabilities she will either worry that I can no longer protect her, or that she will no longer take me seriously. Then, there's my nightmare projection into the future: I see her sitting in an AA meeting or on the therapist's couch talking about how all her mother ever did when she was little was check her email with red beer-stained lips.

But it begs the question, "What makes a good role model?" Of course, I want to teach Claire the virtues of life. However, as much as it may surprise you (joke), I'm not always among the virtuous.

Modeling authenticity is just as important to me for growing a healthy child. I want to be open with Claire about my desires and indulgences, my weaknesses and excesses -- my humanity. I don't want her to believe that she has to live up to an impossible standard, in order to be worthy of anyone's love and approval.

What I learned from my parents was a mixed bag too. Yes, my dad showed me how to drink too much. He also instilled in me a strong work ethic. Sure, my mom taught me how to lose my temper when I was angry. She also showed me how to be a loyal friend.

Some lessons were more virtuous than others. It's been my job to figure out who I am, because of and in spite of my parents' influences. In the course of my life, I have fixed my tendency to be like my dad and drink too much. I am still working on the temper one from my mom (as my husband George can attest).

But that's what I'm talking about, really…I am a work in progress.

Claire is too.

Someday, she will have doubts about herself, waver and falter. She may wonder if she's had too much red beer. I don't want her to think she is alone or bad. I want her to know that she walks along a path that I have also walked (not always in a straight line).

Claire should also know that I have another bad tendency (George will attest). I see the negative in everything -- including the mirror she holds up to me. I will more quickly remember the time when my daughter talks about "Mama's red beer" than when she says, "Mama, Papa, Claire…all together, " as the three of us walk down the street hand in hand.

I am a good influence. Claire knows that she is loved.

Anyway, they say red beer is good for the heart too.



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Photo Source: Paterno, Wine Splash, Flickr

59 comments:

  1. Funny how self-image affects how we think our children perceive us. I bet if you were imagining how Claire looked at you through George's eyes rather than your own you would be surprised at how lucky she feels. Not many parents realize they are a work in progress and try to be better than they were yesterday.

    You, my friend, are always striving for better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow. I think that is all you need to do.

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    1. Kerri, you, my friend, are so lovely. Thank you for your encouraging words. Yes, my self-image needs some improvement (hmm....see how I can turn even that into a negative!)

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  2. So I totally get why mom's become winos...nothing works like a glass or few of wine to relax you, espically if you've had a long day or if, like me, you're pretty tightly wound to start with. I've explained to my daughter that wine, like driving a car, or staying up late, is a grown up thing and she seems to accept that (for now at least). As for being a good role model...I think the best we can do is show them that we AREN'T in fact perfect and that's okay too. Teach them how to learn from mistkes made. Other wise they'll end up telling their therapist and/or AA sponser that nothing was ever good enough for mom. Nice post..it's like reading my own thoughts. (sorry such a long comment :) )

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    1. Puleaze...long comment?? Thank you for sharing, Amy!!

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  3. This is great. I think the 'red beer' (love that) is fine... all those antioxidants! My daughter said, when she was 4, that she was excited to grow up so she could eat nuts and drink wine ~ add some cheese and it's a perfect meal! Anyway, I think it is important that we allow our children to see our vulnerabilities, and see that we own our behavior, just as we expect them to be able to come to us when they are vulnerable or need to admit something. Parenting, life, us... it's all practice and a work of progress!

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  4. Rachel,
    You're an amazing mom and the fact that you're even thinking about all of this and how it affects Claire and you is proof of that. I love the line "because of and in spite of my parents' influences" and relate to it so well. There have been moments when I've lost my cool and immediately thought of my mom losing hers. It's made me gentler with myself and with Tucker and so I am thankful for remembering that it didn't feel good when she lost her cool.
    Tucker doesn't yet "get" my red-beer (ha!) habit but when he does, I am perfectly fine with explaining that I love it, that I am not perfect and that I am careful (although I have not always been). This is an amazing post (as always). I really do think it's important to remember that we all are truly works in progress. I'm proud to know you.

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    1. Aw, dear, Kristi! You always have the perfect thing to say! Thank you.

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  5. Rachel, seriously I have to agree with the majority on this and tell you that your are an amazing women and mother. I think we all have our vices and such, but you are right that to hide them I think we be worse in the end. I know I don't what my kids being afraid of making mistakes or thinking they have to be perfect of they won't be loved or such. So, I too just do my best and that is all that can be expected from any of us I suppose.

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    1. Yes, we really can't do any better than our best. And sometimes that isn't really good enough. Just part of life.

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  6. I can really relate to this-I laughed at the checking the email part, because I know that my daughter has pretended to do that too! When I worked for the Red Cross I had to take conference calls and did data entry on my laptop. My daughter would climb right up next to me with her little pretend laptop and do her "Confrence Call" too. It was quite funny. She also has decreed that mommies drink wine and daddies drink beer-which is an interesting conclusion since I rarely drink in front of her. And she's an enabler-always offering to bring me my big vice-another can of diet pop. I constantly worry about what I'm modeling for my kids, but in the end I suppose I'm doing the best I can under our current circumstances!

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    1. Me too. I end up drinking soda in the corner of my kitchen like it's contraband!

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  7. I'm laughing a bit at how verbal Claire is... RED BEER. Maybe the fact that Henry is slow to speak is a good thing?

    But seriously, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about the different things you learned from each parent. No one is perfect, and pretending you are is more damaging than drinking wine, methinks.

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  8. Wow can I relate to a lot of this. "I am a work in progress" speaks to me. Teach your child *that*, about yourself and about her. Just recently I wrote in my notebook (oh, and I showed up in a post somewhere) that the "why, why why" questions that my little guy has started asking incessantly are good. They're good because when I don't have an answer, which is usually, I say, "I don't know." I've met too many parents who try to answer every question, and I think that's a dangerous model. It's ok to not know. It's ok to be "in progress." The fun is finding answers together, perfection be damned. A little red wine won't hurt while you're at it.

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    1. I say, "I don't know" too. More real. More honest. Then, there's always google...

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  9. I think this is an excellent post. You made me laugh and made me think (one of my favorite combinations!) Yes we are all works in progress. I think it is like Deb said "No one is perfect, and pretending you are is more damaging than drinking wine, methinks." Way to go, Rachel!

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  10. You know what's great about our children mimicking our vulnerabilities? They don't see them as such, so we get a chance to change-or explain. That's pretty neat if you think about it;someone who loves you unconditionally & even helps you grow without a hidden agenda or malice. Take advantage of it- it leaves them at ::shudder:: Puberty. BB2U

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    1. You are so wise, BB. I'm coming straight to you when my daughter reaches puberty!!

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  11. Aw...we all are. We're all works in progress for sure. I'm working on my temper (I think I've tempered it), my impatience and my tendency to annoy my family with my failed comedic outbursts.

    You're owning it. Very important.

    You know, there really is such a thing as red beer. Just found that out this weekend. I mean other than Killians. ;)

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    1. I did not know about red beer for real. I do know about tempers. :)

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  12. Amazing what they pick up at young ages. My 7 yr old routinely tells me to take funny pictures of him and put them on Facebook. And he's already trying to come up with blog ideas for me. And he often complains that I'm "always working." I like the idea of "works in progress." You can be a great mom and a great writer but the mistake is believing or modeling that you can be both at the same time all the time. Modeling the acceptance of the imperfect is the better ideal. -- Norine of Science of Parenthood

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    1. Aw, I like that he's working it for the blog. How sweet!

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  13. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lacie. Always appreciate the love!

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  14. You know I relate to this ... I too want Reagan to be a better version of me. I know what my flaws are. I want her to avoid those same flaws. Yet it seems inevitable as I see how much alike we are more and more each day. It makes it rough but we do eventually get through it, right??

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    Raising-Reagan.com

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    1. It is important to know our flaws, Lanaya. That's all we can do, really.

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    2. Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
      Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

      ¤´¨)
      ¸.•*´
      (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
      Raising-Reagan.com

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  15. Cheers to you! Sounds like you are doing all the right things to ensure your daughter's future success.

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    1. All I can do is try to be self-aware. I appreciate the encouragement.

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  16. Be careful about dumping too much heavy stuff on a young kid. Explanations often make things worse. Just be yourself and don't worry about her wanting to drink too much just because you have two glasses of wine. If you don't say anything about it, she won't even know what you're doing or care.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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    1. I so hear you, Joyce. I think it's a fine line. My parents just pushed everything under the rug, which wasn't good either. I don't want to make a big deal out of these things, but don't want to pretend they don't exist either.

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  17. Claire will remember the love and caring she received from you. If you have a few flaws they won't matter. You are a great role model. And your right red beer is good for your heart.

    "I Don't Like Mondays!!"

    http://agutandabutt.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you, Betty. I need some reminding of these things!

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  18. I think we all get a mixed bag from our parents. I can point to my stubbornness and my strength - both things can be a good and a bad - and say they come from my father. I love him on the whole, my mother too, even though I learned good AND bad from both. What I remember most is how they loved me, and supported and encouraged me. That's what Claire will remember most too. The red beer and email will be laughed about around a dinner table at Claire's graduation.

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    1. Stephanie, you, my friend, are awesome! Your parents are lucky to have you as a daughter!

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  19. My parents fought a lot while I was growing up. Did it damage me? Severely, as it was very hard for me to commit and be in relationships. But in the end, what counted most was that I knew they love me.

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  20. I'm so with you on this one. I berate myself far too much, especially now my kids are aware of alcohol and health issues. But of course, you're right, they will be what they will be, some good and some not so good.

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    1. It's a mixed bag, Helen. We need to be compassionate for our weaknesses, in order to be open enough to change them.

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  21. We had to stop saying 'beer' when my 3rd son developed a love of Ginger Beer. That led to a few awkward moments...

    A glass of red beer isn't going to hurt you unless it's followed daily by several more. Life is not easy, and it's not a practice, we get the one shot, we need to live. Your daughter will point out your shortcoming plenty of times over the following few years, I assure you!

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    1. I like that...we need to live! You are so right. That sums it up!

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  22. Oh girl. You know I feel you. Sometimes at my age, I don't give a damn what others think of me. But then I realize, I do care what my daughters think of me, because it will influence what they think of themselves. I've already readjusted some behaviors, but pretty soon they'll be too old to hide from when I want to eat 10 cookies in a row. :)

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    1. I like that...it will influence what they think of themselves. It's true. And so hard, because we all have those moments when we want to eat 10 cookies in a row!

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  23. *Raises her hand in the back corner and whispers "I worry about this a lot"
    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 2. I'm up and down and all that's in between. I hope that when I'm down, he can see beyond that...hope.
    But I remember to apologize when I'm angry.
    And to love...love all the time. Always

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    1. I think all of these things need to come out of the closet for kids too!

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  24. My son sees a cherry coke and says it is mommy's drink cup. Ugh. He also points out any Sonic and asks me if I am going to get a drink cup. Way to point out the fact that I can't seem to break my cherry coke addiction son.

    Come on by the Tuesday Baby link up and share this post if you would like!
    http://www.adventureswithcaptaindestructo.com/2013/06/tuesday-baby-link-up-week-35.html

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    1. Oh, we don't have a Sonic near us! I used to LOVE cherry lime-aids! You need to move to break your addiction. ;)

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  25. Red beer is good for the heart! ;)

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    1. Bottoms up, Shell! Come have one or two with me...

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  26. will be an amazing mom.. nicely expressed :)

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  27. It is so easy to focus on the negative rather than relish in the fact that there is SO much good there. Like you said, you learn both good and bad. And I am SURE she will be a better version of you, they always are!

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  28. I thought I commented on this last week. Probably forgot to hit send, because that happens. I was thinking of the song Red Red Wine (Neil Diamond's version)... because you know, I do that. But it has that nice relaxing rhythm, we have "grown-up" drinks at this house for that too. Ah the how's...how do we make sure we model the good more than the bad? I think we just love them. Love them lots and do our best, right?

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  29. Ahh, being a mom means a million questions a day on what you are modeling. It is such a fine balance. I think you are doing a great job and everyone needs a little red beer :)

    Thank you for linking up to Raising Imperfection!
    Make sure to check back on Friday to see if you were featured.
    Leslie
    www.violetimperfection.com

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