Healthy, wealthy and wise?

Being a role model is overrated

In my youth, I used to be a big fan of putting bumper stickers on my car.

One of my favorites was, “If you can’t be a role model, be a terrible warning.” But these days, our social media is filled with encouraging statements written over glorious images. My humorous Gen X-era low self-esteem bumper sticker has been replaced by, “If you can’t find a role model, be one.”

Whatever, little Suzie Positive Affirmation; I’ll be over here, watching “The Breakfast Club” for the millionth time.

Now that I’m in the position to actually be a role model to my kid, I’m ruefully realizing that my snarky 20-something bumper sticker may have been painfully prescient.

To be fair to myself, I come from a long line of late bloomers (my mom’s words) and imperfect parenting. I know my grandmother used to tell my mom a similar sentiment: “Do as I say, not as I do.” We’re all out here doing the best we can to improve on the next generation coming up in the ranks under our (floundering) tutelage. Sometimes we lead by example, and sometimes we show them what they don’t want to emulate.

Since this month’s issue focus is on health, I’ll admit (as I have countless times) that I’m not the perfect role model on nutrition and fitness for my daughter. I do try — every day, over and over — with my own success in those arenas.

I keep reiterating suggestions for her to avoid my own pitfalls by being proactive in her healthy choices now. And she has made incredible strides to not be like her ancestors. She’s a vegetarian who eats tons of fruit. She’s a cross-country runner. She doesn’t drink soda. And I’m ecstatic about these choices.

She also sees me struggling financially as a solo parent with my four jobs, and I know that her disappointment with my available funds is driving her to become a successful adult in a high-paying profession. Her straight-A machine mentality is partly because she wants to get into a high-profile university and do things a lot differently than I did.

I’m glad — well, maybe not glad, as much as I am willing — to accept the digs and jibes from her about my shortcomings, if it means she is striving to do better than I have in her own adult journey. I will be proud of her if she overcomes her family’s historical foibles. I will be proud of her regardless.

So… yay for being a terrible warning. Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning editor and journalist, marketing/communications content writer and occasional comedic actress. Nothing makes her happier than making people laugh. She is a single mom to a teenager, so naturally she enjoys a glass of wine, or two.

Categories: Never A Dull Moment