Our Story Begins:
Leading By Example
Three years ago I started a journey.
I didn’t want to take it. I certainly had no idea where I was going nor did I have any idea how to navigate the road ahead of us.
Three years ago, my wife, partner in parenting and friendship, passed away. That last one, it seems, was a rarity after hearing some of the comments from my column last week. I have to admit, though, she was my friend and I wanted to tell her the best and the worst of things when they happened each day.
So when I was left to do this on my own, it looked a bit bleak. If I had been completely alone and lost my companion, friend and wife, I don’t know what would have happened. Reality is I had four children, the faces you see here, relying on me to be the one to lead them through the woods.
At that time I had no idea what I was doing. When you make decisions together with your wife, you have someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off to see if they’re right. Now I was the one in charge. I asked my oldest daughter her thoughts early on and got the teenage “shrug” with her eyes on the floor. My kids didn’t know what they wanted or where to go.
So I led using the example I’d been given.
My parents probably weren’t too different from yours. I grew up in the Midwest. I had breakfast every morning. My mom made my lunch. If we wanted dessert or treats we only got them if my mother made them.
In the interest of giving my kids a stable example this was the tactic I used. I made dinner every night. I modified the breakfast every morning so that I made triple batches of pancakes or waffles and froze them. Voila . . . frozen waffles in the morning. I realized that, even though it looks harder, making everything at home wasn’t that much more work than going to the store. It’s certainly cheaper.
I realized that homemade treats didn’t make my kids hyper. If I bought one box of cookies at the store, though, they were bouncing off the walls. I noticed something else, too. We were more active. I took the kids to the park and we walked in the evenings and played games outside. That led, in the last year, to my actively working out and eating less and eating better. Another modification, though subtle, in my leadership through the woods.
Here we are, more than three years later, and I’m much skinnier than I was. My kids see me running every morning – and I have to give you this caveat, by the way . . . I hate running. It’s a means to an end for me, but unlike many of the people around me I don’t like exercise. I just have to do it. Still . . . my kids, without my asking or prodding, are riding bikes, exercising and running.
So when people come up to me and ask how I did it the credit doesn’t come back to me, really. It’s all about leading by example and I had the best examples growing up.
What about you? Do you see the influence you have on your kids? Do you lead by example?