When your baby is little, you are so careful around her! You watch what you say, how you sit and stand and talk, how you behave with others. You do it mainly so she can learn the ‘right’ things. Like it or not, you’ve become her role model. 🙂
It’s easy when she’s little, but as she grows, she enters more and more areas of your life. Now that she can walk from room to room, she follows you around. She’s listening when you’re on the phone: being impatient with your parents, trying to be patient with someone from work, flirting with someone, turning the air blue with your comments on how your favorite baseball team performed at the last game, having an argument with your partner, laughing crudely at crude jokes (yes, women do this as much as men do), making snide remarks about people.
But you haven’t given up on your baby! She is your wonderful, special girl, the love of your life, and you’re determined she will be PERFECT!
Look at it from your child’s point of view:
You have shown him how to do be sit stand speak sleep dress eat brush bathe play – everything he knows, he knows from you. He tries first to copy you, and then to make that imitation faultless. Now, all of a sudden, you want to sheer off and do stuff that he is not supposed to imitate! Worse, you seem displeased or discomfited or both if he even notices you doing certain things (like banging a fist against the wall when you’re frustrated, for instance).
Obviously your son is confused. When are you in ‘role model’ mode? And when is he supposed to pretend you’ve faded into the woodwork?
To make matters worse, you don’t explain it to him. You can’t! If he’s supposed to ignore certain behaviors of yours, your calling attention to them is not exactly going to help him do that, is it?!
As he grows, you begin to feel the burden of this ‘role model’ business. “Finish your homework before dinner. You can watch TV after dinner” you tell him. But you want to watch a program while he’s doing his homework; you don’t have homework. Besides, you’re not a child; you’re an adult, and it’s perfectly alright for you to watch TV all evening if you want to, so long as you don’t neglect your chores (you might think). Why should you give up watching TV because he isn’t supposed to watch it at that time?
“Eat your vegetables” you tell him at dinner. But you don’t want to eat yours because you eat a large vegetable salad for lunch every single day, while he carries a sandwich to school. At dinner, you want some bread and meat. And dinner is the only time your child will eat vegetables (if at all he does). Why should you forego your nutrients to ensure he gets his?
You can be sarcastic with your friend. It is totally inappropriate for your child to be sarcastic with your friend.
You’re getting the drift, aren’t you? If you are a role model, you have to do be say what you want your child (or whoever else) to do be say. I’d say this is a foolproof way to introduce an incredible amount of stress into your life. How can you possibly live your life as an example of how you want your child to live his life?
And there’s something else you’ve forgotten. Your child is her own person; she is not you. Her nature and personality may be similar to yours, but they will never be identical. How, then, can you expect that you will be a role model for her?
Real life doesn’t allow for role models; at least, not on an ongoing basis. You can be a role model for someone who sees you for a short while, who shares a small slice of your life or your experience. But when someone is as much a part of your life as your child is, it is almost impossible for you to be a role model for them.
This is why I say: I don’t want to be a role model for my child.
Most people can’t believe it. “Don’t you want your child to learn anything from you?” they ask me.
Sure I do! I want her to learn from me.
I live my life according to my beliefs. I am true to myself. More accurately, I try to be as true to myself as it is possible to be. (If I’m in a group that’s praising someone for something they did, and I think what the person did is reprehensible, I won’t criticize that person, but I won’t say a single word of praise either. I’d be non-committal, poker-faced.)
I want my daughter to learn from me: to be true to her own beliefs (which might be –and are, in some instances! 🙂 – different from mine). I want my daughter to be true to herself.
Would you call that being a role model?