Parents Are Big, Fat Hypocrites.
Yup. I said it.
(Just don’t tell the kids.)
Yes, we all mean to be consistent, exemplary, do-as-we-say-and-as-we-do models for our kids. But….
If you think about some of the things we try to teach ‘em but fail to measure up to ourselves…or even more, all the things we worry and fuss over when it comes to them, and then all the things we let slide…or don’t even notice – it must be hard to make any sense of us. And we wonder why the kids are so capricious.
Take, for example, my mamamiga and soul sister Hannah. (I’ll just use her to illustrate since…well, I’m a big, fat hypocrite too.)
Hannah is an unpretentious, easy-to-like introvert with a fantastic (“just wrong”) sense of humor, unwavering faith, and more wisdom in her pinky finger than I have in my entire body. A caring and conscientious schoolteacher, she’s also blessed many children over many years before giving it all up recently to home-school her own two boys.
The other day, Hannah and I were at the public library perusing children’s books with our littles when she noticed my kindergartener’s book selections. Her face turned suddenly serious as she leaned in towards me.
“Don’t let your kids read those Junie B. Jones books, Anita. When I taught first grade, I never had those books in my classroom library.”
Afraid to admit we actually own a worn and well-loved boxed set of Junie B. Jones books at home and that just seconds ago, I was thrilled my son had found some new volumes for us to enjoy together at home, I sheepishly asked, “Oh, what’s wrong with Junie B. Jones?”
“I don’t like the protagonist. Junie B. uses bad language, has horrible spelling and grammar, and she’s basically a big brat. She really models bad behavior for kids and teaches horrible English.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess you’re right.” [I reluctantly put back 91.66% of my son’s book selections.]
As stay-at-home moms serving their summer sentence (a.k.a. summer “break”) sometimes need other fatigued, exasperated prison-mates to survive the season, Hannah and I dragged out our day together as long as we could. Our small herd migrated together from the library out to dinner at a restaurant, and from there, back to Hannah’s place for dessert, foosball, ping pong, “American Ninja Warrior” reruns, and . . . a harmless Nerf battle.
Or so I thought.
The kids excitedly grab a plastic toy gun, a handful of bright foam bullets and run out to the patio. As they giggle and prep for battle outside, there at the bottom of the stairs appears Hannah’s younger son – decked out from neck down in full-on combat gear, complete with a huge plastic automatic weapon half his height and a military vest bestrewn with countless bullets. Slight and small but clearly very serious about and very prepared for what was sure to be an epic (and totally uneven) shootout, Hannah’s little boy is a sight to behold.
Before I can LOL, my sage friend jumps up from the sofa and sprints over to talk to her 9-year-old son. I assume she’s warning him to take some precautions. She is.
The warning isn’t to “aim low” or “take it easy” or “don’t gun down the poor, unsuspecting little children machine-gun style.”
The warning is…
“Buddy, you need to wear your face mask to protect your eyes. And remember, you don’t have good peripheral vision in this thing [as she carefully places the mask over his head], so be careful out there.”
I just about died laughing.
“Wait a minute. WAIT. A. MINUTE. Is this the same woman who warned me earlier today about the dangers of letting my kids read Junie B. Jones?! Because Junie B’s a bad influence??
Meanwhile, Mikey comes down looking like a mini terrorist ready to shoot up the world and you’re telling him to ‘be careful’…’cause he doesn’t have good ‘peripheral vision’ in his combat gear?? BAHAHAHA!!!! While you’re putting his bullet-proof face mask on, Mom, don’t forget to hand him his lunch and wish him a good day at school!”
Hannah takes a second look at Mikey — with new eyes, widening eyes, suddenly realizing how crazy hostile he looks. She then busts up too, and we can’t stop laughing, teetering around the room, smacking each other’s arms and shaking our heads…
“What the? I can’t believe I put those library books back because you made Junie B. sound dangerous! Your son is way scarier!!”
We laughed and laughed ‘til there was no more laughter in us.
As she stood in the dark driveway waving our family goodbye, Hannah and I look at each other with knowing smiles. “We’re crazy, aren’t we?”
I repeat this ancient maxim to my kids all the time. Why? We learn more by studying ourselves, especially the feelings that influence our thoughts and motivate our actions.
But I guess I don’t know myself too well either.
Tomorrow, I’m going back to the library…to check out some Junie B. Jones books.
I can’t protect the kids from every danger out there. Like all parents, I’ll just have to pick my battles. And I guess I’ll just have to accept the big, fat hypocrite that I am.
Just don’t tell the kids.
(They’ll figure it out when they grow up to become big, fat hypocrites too.)