How Much of Your True Self Should You Show Your Kids?
I don't remember exactly what I said, but somewhere in my clever phrasing was an expletive. My son who is almost 10 and very thoughtful said, "Why do grownups use swear words when they could choose to use other words that are not swear words?" (He really talks like that.) This was his nice way of saying, "Why do you swear so much, Mom?"
I've been a parent for a decade now, and it's exhausting trying to be my best self all the f*!@g time. Slowly, though, I've been pulling back the curtain so my boys see that I'm not just a cookie-baking, mom-car-driving, automaton whose only purpose in life is to see to their every need. They already know I have a yelling problem, but mostly my goal has been to have them see me as Latina June Cleaver.
Like everyone, I'm layered, and although I've spent years in a race against myself to be the best mother I could possibly be, it's making me mentally and physically exhausted. I want to be the mom who enjoys sitting with my boys while they do their homework. But they have so much homework to do! And it's sucking the life out of all of us. I want to say, 'Blow it off. Let's go to the movies.' I don't do this of course ( … maybe sometimes) because they need to learn responsibility. They also need to learn to work well with others. My natural instincts are to avoid large groups of people including clubs and team sports. But off we go every week to basketball and baseball practice. I've joined so many groups since I've had them, I've lost count.
I am my children's role model, so I feel I need to be good. Thoughtful. Calm. Kind. And open minded. I try not to be rude in front of my kids because I would hate for them to grow up to be one of those people behind the counter at the coffee shop who look visibly and audibly annoyed at the thought of 1 pump instead of 2 (double sigh, head thrown back, "You want what?"). But the other day my older son and I were in a store, and the woman who was helping us had a neck tattoo that said "Rich." She was super rude and seemed very put out about having to help us even though there was no one else in the store.
When we left, I told my son to make sure never to date someone with a neck tattoo that says "rich" because they would be guaranteed not to be. Once I said this, I regretted it. That was not okay on many levels. Partly because it will subconsciously make him want to marry someone with a neck tattoo, but mostly because it was mean, and that's definitely not the example I want to set for my kids. I can be as snarky as I want to be when my boys are not learning from my actions.
The real me I want them to see at this point in their lives is a cross between Facebook status me (everything is awesome) and the real me (everything is not so awesome). Once they're a little older, they'll see the paranoid and cynical woman who fears for them and the world. Until then, I'll be baking cookies.
Photo Credit: Yvonne Condes
- By Yvonne Condes