Single Mom Slice of Life…
They’re Always Watching
Over dinner the other night, my oldest, a 20-year-old said something that chilled me to the bone, warmed my soul and set off a EUREKA light all at the same time.
“I offered him my cell phone, I tried to give him money, I asked if he needed me to drive him anywhere. Mom, I tried to help in any way I could – just like you do.”
Ok, so the situation wasn’t really all that severe – a family friend’s car had broken down on the freeway and my oldest, not really mechanically inclined, wanted to help, and those were the ways in which he could. That’s not important. What’s important was the, “just like you do” part.
It’s important for a couple of reasons.
Reason 1 – I set the bar.
Before he said those four little words, I had been thinking that he was going overboard.
“Dude, the man’s car broke – you can’t fix his car… you showed up like a good friend, why in the hell are you going so gung-ho over doing everything but taking the shirt off your back?”
Now I was forced to ask myself – do I really do that? For the love of all things good in gravy – yes. Yes I do. No matter how far out of my way, at what expense or inconvenience, I am one of those over the top helpers that others look at and think, “damn, I just asked if you knew the time, not give me a ride there.”
Reason 2 – Nature vs. Nurture… or a little of both.
My kids are still – at 20 and 16 – watching me. He admitted it. “… just like you do.” Ugh. Do you know how many things in a day I do? When Nick first moved away to downtown Phoenix for school, he told me about how he was walking, came across a man crying on the curb because he couldn’t feed his dog, so Nick gave him $20. Is it because he’s just a good kid? Probably, but also, we live where summer temps can reach 117 or more. I buy bottled water from the cooler at the stores, and give them to the homeless people I saw when we walked in. This may or may not be (it is) from years of watching my parents who spend their Sunday afternoons making homemade meals and serving them to the homeless at their local parks. Nick has had literally generations of examples on how to be that kid.
Reason 3 – You can’t pick and choose when you lead.
Damned parenthood. I realized that if he was willing to give the shirt off his back, the last $20 from his wallet… what else had I been teaching him? During a walk with the dog one morning, I thought about it. My kids don’t ask for “things” on their birthdays. They ask for cake. I know, I know, so does everyone – but my kids get their birthday cakes for breakfast. They ask for their favorite “comfort foods” after hard days. The reward others by feeding them.
Holy cow – I’ve taught them how to approach food… and it’s not really a good thing. Yes, there have been recent changes to our eating habits, but all of the others, the birthday cake for breakfast, the comfort foods for rewards… that was all me… and in this, I’ve been a bad teacher.
I hurt my foot at the gym. I had been feeling a little too good about myself, and worked harder, longer, and at a faster pace and ended up damaging a tendon in my foot that took me out for about 2 months. But before that I was at the gym – every day – doing my thing. And while I was there, Nick was right there with me, working out, sweating like a pig, doing his own thing. But as soon as I stopped… so did he.
When I ate like crap – so did he. When I ate better – so did he. When I worked out – so did he. When I started making excuses – so did he.
What? You mean even when they graduate high school, get full time jobs, become their own people, and are legitimate adults, I still have to lead by example?
Is it a bad thing?
Not if it keeps me on track, keeps me honest, keeps me motivated in a way I wouldn’t normally be on my own. Not if it means helping my kid make healthy, happy choices that will save him from the health issues that will haunt him if he doesn’t start his life off in the right lane.
Until next time, ask yourself – what kind of example are you setting? Is it the right one? Will it make you proud to see your kids doing what you didn’t realize YOU do?