A less than perfect role-model

A less than perfect role-model

You know the trickiest part of parenting? The part where you become a role model for a tiny human, or two in my case, whether you like it or not.
Never in my life have I striven to be a better person — with better habits and a better attitude — as hard as I did since I had the kids. That, without even being aware of it.
The idea that someone thinks (at least for the first decade of his/her life) that you are the epitome of perfection, aims to be ‘just like you’ and is watching you all the time and copying you too is unnerving to say the least.
Years in the hostel and then with just the two of us – The Husband and I – at home made us lose touch with many ‘good’ childhood habits. When the twins came along they sprung right back up with a vengeance.
To begin with we got into a proper schedule. No lounging in bed till 10 am on weekends or staying up late watching movies endlessly. First it was because unexpected changes made the kids cranky and then later simply because that was what suited all of us best.
Next we purged swear words from our vocabulary – no shits, no craps, no damns. Two tiny toddlers lisping them out at us was more than we could handle.
That was just the start. I realised it was easier to get them to do things if I did them first. If I wanted to them to eat at the table (and not in front of the TV) I had to do that myself too, if I wanted them to not go barefoot I had to wear slippers too, if I wanted them to speak a language well I had to give up the mish mash I often slipped into.
They even made me challenge the non confrontationist in me. I learnt to speak out when they were wronged not only because I was way too angry to let it go but also because I didn’t want them to sit back and accept bad behaviour or unfair treatment.
I changed. A lot. However, it’s been ten years since they were born and it does get exhausting. Much as I would want to be this other person permanently, all the time, I realised I simply could not — even though she was a far better version of me.
Some of my childhood habits came back and stuck for good but some I gave up along the way.
Mercifully the children are growing out of the ‘mama is perfect’ mode. And that is a relief, at least for now. I know I’ll be regretting it soon enough as they move to the ‘You don’t know anything, You don’t understand’ phase. But until then I am glad I can let them see that I am not perfect and that they don’t need to be either. And yet that doesn’t mean I’ll stop bugging them or that they don’t need to keep trying their darndest.
I won’t obsesses about it, though. As long as the basic values are in place – honesty, loyalty, empathy, chivalry – the rest shall follow in good time.

Picture credit: Pixabay

33 Replies to “A less than perfect role-model”

  1. I was nodding my head as I read this post. Leading by example is what I believe in too. For basic values this is a MUST. Somehow, that registers well with kids and it's easy for them to follow too. But as AG is growing up, I have no hang-ups in saying that I messed up or that I dont know about something.

  2. You've shared the dilemma of parenting so well, Tulika. And you do sound like a fun parents who is enjoying motherhood.
    No Kids, no experience 🙂 But I have been a kid and as I grow older I find myself talking, thinking or behaving like my parents so often. That is when i confirm my belief that children don't learn what you teach them, they learn from watching you:)

    1. That's the worry – no matter how much you TELL them what to do they will do what they see you doing. Which is why there's the pressure of being the best that you can be for their sake.

  3. you've said it all! Kids copy everything we do…everything! I agree, it gets us tired being the perfect role model, but the kids grow up fast and then they are on their own..but whatever they've learnt watching us, (not just the perfect ones, but even the trying and failing parts), will stay with them forever…and just teaching them that- that's one big job done!

  4. I know where this is coming from, because I am struggling with this. What I realised is I don't have to be perfect, because perfection,is not an ideal I want S to strive towards. What I want to be is the parent that he needs,if that is swearing sometimes or raising my voice then so be it.
    I do agree with the fact that kids make us do things we did not imagine doing, like taking a stand, and confronting people, I was the one who would never engage. But I have learned to stand up for him.
    Ultimately what I feel is as long as we are comfortable being who we are, I think we will be okay role models for our kids, because if we are notcomfortable with us, then no one will be.

  5. yes kids learn so fast, you never know which word they parrot out of the blue. I remember how my parents used to tell us how they changed their complete lifestyle after we were born. That 'You don't know anything' phase sounds scary though, much more scarier than 'thou are the best' phase 🙂

    1. Oh yes Raj. I'm trying to prepare myself for that time when nothing I say has an impact on them. And yet I don't think I'll ever be ready for it.

  6. Hi Tulika…just the right time for this post cos yesterday at reading time my daughter mirrored my angry and frustrated expression and I made a mental note not to do that anymore…you are right having children and raising them automatically makes you want to be a better person but it is exhausting…

    1. Glad the post found you at the right moment Gowri. In the end I think we will settle down at be just ourselves. It is difficult to change completely no matter how necessary it might seem.

  7. Being a role model is tough. Being human is easier. Evolving as parents is pretty normal, if you ask me. I've consciously made a decision to yell less, more for my own sake than anything else. But yes, the fact that Gy may mirror my tantrums or anger doesn't escape me. I have gotten out of the guilt rut though. Now I make mistakes, Apologize and move on. It helps us both. As for you, I think it's double the work but if I know you and I do, you're doing a fine job of it all.

    1. No guilt for me now either. Just relief that I can let go a little bit. It's good to be yourself – a little lazy, a little impatient – and to know that they love you no matter what just like you love them.

  8. In the end, I feel it's all worth the pain and efforts that we put in when we watch our kids evolve into thoughtful humans. That feeling of pride is irreplaceable since you know you must have done something right to be blessed with such children. And, that something right is what sums up into your post. Double kudos to you, for handling the twins in such a patient manner!

  9. I would not know that yet. But I remember having no role models growing up. My parents were far from perfect but that was enough for me. They brought me up well and I'll do the same if I have kids some day.

    Perfection is a myth, just be the awesome imperfect person you are. Your children will learn more from that than if you were indeed a role model.

    1. Soumya you perhaps would not remember the phase when you thought your parents perfect. I think every child goes through that. It is only as you grow up that you can see them as human with all their faults and still love them.

  10. Exactly in the same situation. Lead by example is what works for them. I was nodding and smiling all through this lovely post. Raising kids is not at all easy.

  11. Tulika how well you've brought out the dilemma all of us face as we run through the cycle of raising kids. I was pretty young when I had my first one and literally like a playmate to my baby! You are absolutely right when you say that you have to be the role model your kids should aspire to look upto. Practice what you preach makes so much sense in the initial years doesn't it? Loved this post!

    1. The initial years are perhaps the toughest when the kids look up to us for everything. Then slowly they realise parents are only human.

  12. I was smiling through the post Tulika, so so true what you've said here. I remember a similar feeling through most of the early years of parenting, and later settling in to – as you've said – being myself and hoping I got the basic stuff right already :). In fact, I hope that seeing a mom who definitely makes a lot of mistakes, even says sorry for some of them, will help in some way as well :P.

    1. Yeah exactly. Admitting your mistakes is a great way to let them know no one is above errors and makes the parents easier-to-follow role models.

  13. This is a different side of parenting I hadn't known about. Being a role model is so much if responsibility. But like you said, it is only for a certain period after which the children themselves grow up to tell the rights and wrongs. The change that comes in the parents is for the better after all.

  14. I totally understand where you are coming from. As it is, I am a very morally upright person, sometimes I feel to my detriment because people have taken advantage of that. You know use and move on. And then since I had kids, I had to behave all well, be conscious of my moods, my talk and my overall demeanour. It can get so exhausting. Like you, I started being this ideal person. I am flawed and I let my kids see it. I have yelled at them. I curse too especially when I drive as they stifle a grin. If you hear the kids in the playground, you will know that they are exposed to a lot of unwanted chatter even if we at home try to keep our language good. I lose my temper. I make mistakes. And I am now okay with that. I think as they are growing older and becoming more mature, they are not those little kids whose world revolved around me and whose sole guiding force was parents. They have influences far beyond my control. And I think seeing that I am flawed and human makes me a role model that they relate to. I don't know if my rambling is making any sense but this is what I feel.

    1. It does make sense Rachna. It's impossible to not be aware that your children are copying you. It takes time to realise you cannot be someone else all the time. And as the kids grow it becomes unnecessary too.

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