The older and wiser (and grumpier and stiffer) I get, the more I realize that this quote is true: some people are terrific examples of how to act, what to do, how to be…and the only reason some other people exist is to serve as a living example of what not to be.
I look around at people in my life, in the kids’ lives, and I see countless things I don’t ever want to be. I don’t want my daddy paying my bills in my 50’s. I don’t want to be hopelessly obsessed with a long-dead relationship. I don’t want to just completely give up on my appearance and my ambitions. I don’t want to be weak, worthless, petty. I don’t want to slam the kids around to get my way, or make myself happy by making others miserable.
I want to be the opposite: I want to be honest with the kids, someone they can confide in and know it won’t be used against them, someone they can trust and know that my affection is genuine, not something I strategically dish out and then maliciously withdraw based on whether they are meeting my selfish demands. I want to be a healthy role model, strong, fit, independent, taking care of myself and them. I want to teach them to take care of themselves and hopefully, ultimately rise above the dismal example that has been set for them by people who should know better.
I don’t have any control over how others choose to behave. I don’t have any control over the example they decide to set for the kids. But I have total control over my own.
I have no idea if anything I say or do actually makes any difference in their lives. The kids spend a few short days with us, then go back to Hickville and an endless supply of toxins. Hopefully some glimmer, some spark, stays alive in them, so they can transcend all the bullshit.
I know they have what it takes to do better than many of those around them. I know they have the capability to do and to be so much more. I know they can fight and claw to a higher place than where they are being forced to start. I just can’t fathom why they should have to, or why someone who claims to love them deliberately hurls so many needless and hateful obstacles in their way. I hope I can be at least a small part of helping them take that leap to a higher, happier, better place.