I am a good person. Although this, I must admit, is a subjective fact coming from a biased source: me. At the very least I try to be a good person. But do I? Do I really? Some days I start to think about the lessons I consistently try to impart to my children, and I have to wonder how many of them I actually believe. Am I just talking the talk? Am I handing down arbitrary rules that were handed down to me a few decades back? Does what I say matter? And most importantly, should I try to do what I tell my children to do? Or should I admit that some of the stuff I tell them is just crap and stop trying to enforce it?
Every morning I walk Edward to school. We stop at the intersection and patiently wait for the light to change, and then we pause a few seconds longer as the crossing guard walks out into the street with her stop sign and motions for us to cross. We also do this on the way home, but in reverse. The thing is, halfway between the intersections, and directly across from his school, is a pedestrian crossing. There is a button you push and instantly the yellow lights flash, the cars screech to a halt, and you can cross with no waiting. He asked once why we don’t just cross there every morning, and I told him that if everyone who was going to school stopped traffic by pushing that button, the cars would be backed up Main Street forever and nobody would get to work, and we should wait our turn at the light so as to be respectful to others and not gum up the works. And every single morning, after I drop him off at 1st grade, I walk outside, push the damn button, stop traffic, cross, and go home. Every morning.
I know I should not do this. But everyone else is doing it! It’s not jamming things up any worse if there are already other parents crossing and I just join them, right?! Or is that a rationalization? And if it is fine to cross at the pedestrian crossing, why won’t I let my son do it? Why would I feel ashamed if I thought he could see me crossing in the middle of the block? Maybe I should just cross at the corner. Except I don’t want to. It is cold, and I have things to do. So maybe I should tell him that it’s fine to cross at the crossing. Except I want him to learn patience and respect. I feel like the Fraudfather.
This, of course, is just one of many examples. At church this week the pastor asked how many of us parents had ever stolen some of their kids’ Halloween candy. I guiltily raised my hand as my daughter shrieked in indignation. But they have so much! And candy is so good! *sigh* I would never let my kids steal each others’ (or my) candy. Why is it okay for me to do it? Because they are just kids, and it is only a little thing? Little things can become big things. That’s what I tell my kids. Is it actually true? I have never shoplifted anything, despite the occasional Twix sneaking. Perhaps I should let little things slide with my kids, too. Or else maybe I should just tell them in the first place that there is a 10% candy tax, hand it over. If I think they have too much candy, wouldn’t that be more honest? It’s not like I can’t go out and buy my own candy. I am an adult. I can buy all the candy I want! But it just sits there after they go to bed, and it looks so yummy, and I am so weak…
I don’t want to give my kids rules that don’t match up with real world expectations of them. I don’t want to teach them things that are social relics of a bygone age. I want to prepare them for the future, but I also want them to be better than me. Remember when I said I was a good person? Well, I have a confession to make. I rounded up. I am not 100% of a good person. But as I feel I am more than 50% good, I decided to ignore the decimals. But I have an unrealistic desire to create new people for this world who are always good, kind, loving, respectful, responsible, safe, and happy. I want them to be more than I ever could. And I know that they will be more, but also less. Just in different ways.
I think the best I can do is to own up to my failures and mistakes, explain to them why they weren’t good choices, let them know I will certainly make bad choices again, and that it’s okay, because it happens to everyone. They will make mistakes. Just like their parents. But I hope, like their parents, they will always think about the choices they make, and strive to do better next time.