Are You REALLY a Good Role Model for Your Children?
My thoughts, successes, and failures in being a role model for my sons.
We all want what's best for our children. At least we believe we do. Goals are important, but when do our dreams cross from the child's to our own? Some parents hope for the next Derek Jeter or Jennifer Lawrence out of their children, however, what if that's not the path THEY have in mind for themselves? On the other hand, today's athletes, models, and rock stars are all easy targets for a developing mind to latch onto as the grown up they want to emulate. These are both equally toxic for a youngster!
There is usually no immediate gratification for a parent who is being a great role model. Instead, the payoff is when your children start growing up and you realize they know what's important in life and what is not. Sure, having fame and fortune would be great, but to see your adult child happy and content with who they are and what they're doing, that's hitting the lottery!
As a parent, I have lived through both successes and failures. Here is a glimpse:
I am fortunate enough to have two remarkable sons! Both are successful and understand the meaning of living life to the fullest. However, it was because of my early failures that drew this into a possibility.
My oldest son, Joe, was and still is a stud athlete. It was clear early on that he was destined for athletic greatness. Physically, he had all the tools to take him wherever he wanted to go and for the most part, this all came to fruition. But was he happy? Somewhere along his journey, this became 2nd tier importance. Sure he loved football, but at what price? He was following the guidelines set forth mainly by me, not by the person that should have been setting them: Joe. It wasn't until he sat me down one day and shared what was really going on, did I realize that I was preventing my son from being happy playing a sport he truly loved. Instead, I was too busy being the proud father of a famous son to hear and see that he wanted something different from me: SUPPORT for what he wanted, not for what I thought was the best for him. Honestly, this was very difficult to hear, but necessary just the same. To my credit, I took these words from my boy and vowed I would do something about it! Now it may have been too late to undo my overpowering ways of his youth, but there was still plenty of time to be the role model I truly wanted to be!
Meanwhile, my youngest son, Michael, is a financial wiz! Since he was in middle school, I showed him the stock page of the Sunday paper weekly. Amazingly, he understood and took to it right away. I'd coach Michael's early football teams, watch some of his baseball games, and drew him in as my assistant coach for our local youth track team. Perfect dad! Well, maybe not. You see, Michael didn't get the time he deserved with his father since I was making sure his brother achieved my, I mean his, dream. Wasn't traveling the country watching his brother win track event after track event great? Having access to the greatest college football teams locker rooms and meeting legends was a dream come true! Come on, what else could Mike possibly want in life?? Then, at the age of 14, Michael came home and declared he had a job. What? How was this possible? It was possible because he did this on his own, not because he wanted to, but because I wasn't paying attention. After attending Community College in the New Jersey Stars program, a program that awards full coverage of tuition for those who graduate high school with a 3.25 GPA or higher, Michael said he'd been accepted into the Business Program at Florida Atlantic University. Funny, I don't remember filling out any applications. He did this too; on his own. Another lost opportunity to do something WITH, not FOR my son. Now while the lack of participation on my part actually made my son fiercely independent, he too sat me down and explained what was going on in his mind. Again, this hurt! But what would hurt more would be to ignore what was spoken and not change. So I did...
This was probably the best thing I could do to become the role model for my boys that I've always wanted to be. Fast forward to the present: my relationships with Joe and Michael are more fulfilling than I could have ever dreamed they would be.
Being a role model for your children is about listening to both their words and their actions. It's about doing the crappy things for them that no one else will do. It's about sacrificing for the betterment of their future. Leading by example, being supportive, but not overbearing. Kids will make mistakes, so be there when they do and point them in the right direction. Trying too hard to be their friend or buddy isn't doing them any good. Love, guidance, and support are what they need, even if they don't realize it. While Superman and Taylor Swift may seem to be of most importance in our children's lives, and it may not be for years that the fruits of your wisdom are seen by both yours and their eyes, but be rest assured, the time is coming. There's no such thing as a perfect parent, but through listening to our children, we can always be the best we can be!