This morning on the way to dropping the kids off to their respective schools, my go-cup of tea fell over and spilled all over the floor of the car… right where my pocketbook could sop up the hot, milky liquid… Of course! Olivia saw it first and yelled, “Spill! Spill!” I, of course, NOT leading by example, responded with, “SH$&*!” OK, cut me some slack… It is Monday and, mostly, I don’t curse. Besides, my 7-year-old daughter already let me know that I was NOT setting a good example. “MOM!”
As a matter of act, Olivia recently told me that I use the phrase, “Holy mackeral, Andy” too much. She asked that I please replace it, sometimes, with “holy cow!”
On another occasion, my daughter was watching another of her new favorite movies, “Men in Black”. I know, I heard your collective gasps. Yes, I purchased this movie for my daughter who ABSOLUTELY loves it. And, as an added bonus, my boys ABSOLUTELY love it too! It’s Michael’s current favorite! In my defense, I hadn’t remembered, when I bought the 2-volume set, that the language in these movies was so bad. I mean, it’s been 12 years since the first movie came out. And, it’s not as bad as the movies out today (no F-word) but it isn’t too good for young kids either, in my opinion. And, yet, here we were watching it. Strangely, my daughter and sons completely overlook the language for the action. (Yeah, maybe some of the action’s not so good either… but they LOVE it!) As we watched it for the umpteenth time one evening, and upon hearing Agent J swear at yet another alien, I took it upon myself to explain that some people think that using foul language is cool. But, I explained, in fact, it shows a serious lack of intelligence. There are so many more descriptive words in the English language that are better at communicating exactly how you feel…. Resorting to these overused and over-generalized profanities is ineffective if you really want to communicate your displeasure to someone. That’s the argument my father gave me many years ago… and it’s more or less worked for me. More or less. The first time I heard someone ream another person out without using profanity I was completely blown away. He was right! A reaming without profanity is much more impactful (try it).
So, here I am trying to explain to my daughter that even though she’s going to hear language like that in movies, on the playground, in my car sometimes, and pretty much every where in life, it doesn’t mean that she should USE language like that herself. Nodding, I could see that she completely accepted this. However, after a long moment’s pause she added, “Mommy, is there a time when those bad words are EXACTLY the right words for saying what you mean?”
Are you chuckling the way I was? Man, why are kids so smart?
“Yes, Olivia, there are times when those are EXACTLY the right words to use. Not often. But, sometimes… Yes!”
Fast forward to this morning’s tea mishap.
It’s important to lead by example especially for your children. Kids do as we do and frequently overlook what we say…. Wouldn’t you agree? Doing the right thing is also a great way to get a happiness boost for yourself. When I recently spied a woman’s pocketbook in the middle of a busy road being run over by passing cars, I stopped to pick it up. It’s what I hoped someone would do for me. I perused the contents for identification and promptly returned it to it’s rightful owner. Then, I turned down the owner’s offer of a reward asking her only to “pay it forward” in what ever way she felt appropriate. I was proud of myself for setting such a great example for my daughter! And, I felt good about doing something nice for someone else. (Random acts of kindness help boost your happiness quotient too!) In the same vein, I know when I talk to my daughter about drinking alcohol and driving that I am a living example of doing the right thing. My husband and I do NOT drink and drive. So, when we tell her about what can happen when you do and that one should never drink and drive, we’re walking the walk. And, I try to do this in so many ways every day… picking up dropped items in the stores — even when I didn’t drop it; holding the door open for others (strangers and family alike); sharing my favorite treats; offering assistance to the elderly or overburdened (even when we’re in a rush), exercising (as time allows); and eating right (even though I’d sometimes love to sit down with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s). I try consistently to set a good example for my children… When they’re watching AND when they are not. And, part of that is acknowledging and apologizing when I haven’t done the right thing…. Because, it seems, they are always watching when I misstep.
On a broader level, my husband and I bought a house well within our means rather than extending ourselves with the $1,000,000.00 mortgage the banks offered us 9 years ago given our salary levels at the time. Things change as we can see from our current economy. I’m a stay-at-home-Mom now. But, the Sarg and I are still able to afford payments on our modest home even on one salary and the 400% increase in our taxes since we purchased it. We do not live above our means and we teach our children this principle by doing without or waiting to get some of the extra stuff others have to help them understand the value of money and the concept of saving up for what you want and earning what you have.
I am trying to be individually responsible. And, I’m teaching that principle to my daughter and to my young sons. To the extent I can and do, leading by example and doing the right thing makes me happy.
Aside: If I were Michelle Obama, to set a good example I would have bought a sleeveless black gown off the rack — even at Nordstroms — for my White House Portrait. Imagine the wonderful example she could have set doing that instead of hiring a designer and spending thousands of dollars on a simple black dress that could have been purchased anywhere.