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.
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