The Worst Of Me

We put our best feet forward every day. From Facebook to Instagram to the line at the supermarket, we all try to shine ourselves up real nice and let everyone bask in the glow of our awesomeness. It’s usually our best qualities that we share with the world.

They’re the headlines on the front page of our lives. If we excel at school, sports, work, or home, that’s what we lead with. We want the world to know how amazing we are at all the things we are amazing at. After all, why shouldn’t we?

worstIf our social media following thinks we’re awesome, they should see our kids. Wow. They are beyond great. Don’t believe it? Look at the checklist of great accomplishments they’ve made. Maybe your kid is a master painter or reader. Perhaps they are funny, adorable, or “old souls” wise beyond their years. No matter the glowing praise, one thing is constant. You’re to thank for it. Good job!

Everyone says it, don’t they? Oh, she’s got your sense of humor or brains or smile or beekeeping ability. Whatever the skill, they must have an adult in their life to thank for it.

The inverse, however, isn’t as readily acknowledged. You get the praise far more often than, well…

Wow. She really has your mean streak.

Aww. Looks like he got your lack of self-confidence and sad desperation. So cute.

Hey Bill. You still owe me $10. By the way, your kid just tried steal my cell phone. Where’s he get that from, huh?  

Let’s be honest. No one is made up of only positive qualities. I’m not. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to make a real concerted effort to do good in my life. While that sounds commendable, it doesn’t consider the fact that I have to make a concerted effort for it. That tells you my instincts aren’t always pristine. I, just like everyone else, is flawed.

I see many of my negative traits, much like their positive counterparts, manifest themselves in my children. I’ve played video games with my ten-year-old daughter and watched in horror on two occasions as she flung the controller against the wall in a raging moment of frustration. Shocked, I say what a father is supposed to say.

Olivia! What are you doing?! That’s expensive! Plus, that’s not how you react to losing a life in Lego Superheroes! 

I’m right, after all. You don’t act that way when losing a life in Lego Superheroes on Xbox. You only do it when you lose a life on Super Mario for the original 1985 Nintendo or miss the vitamin power-up in Pac-Man on the Atari 2600.

Yeah. I know because that’s what I did…a lot. I smashed so many controllers against the wall when I was her age that when you picked up a gamepad in my house, it made that one-bead maraca sound electronics make when you’ve cracked something inside. When we all got together to play a game with multiple controllers, it sounded like a parade.

I say “when I was her age”, but that’s kind of a lie. I was crushing game controllers now and again right up until a few years ago when heart surgery chilled me out a bit. I was usually alone, but on the rare occasion my wife was in the room, she’d give me that look that said more than she ever could with words. It silently reminded me that this wasn’t a good look.

Yet, here I am, the hypocritical poppa lecturing my daughter on not throwing things in anger. That’s how it goes, though. A lot of my behavior-correcting is hypocritical. It’s part of being a parent. We tell our children to not do the things we’ve done and sometimes, we leave out the fact that we ever did them at all. You just can’t tell them sometimes. It muddies the water and dilutes the lesson.

Also, you know, we just don’t want to talk about that. Move along. Nothing to see here.

There’s a reason for our hypocrisy, though. It’s because through both nature and nurture, most of the things are kids do – good and bad – are from us. They’re wired the same inside and, if not, they’re being raised by us, the ones with those personality quirks always simmering beneath the surface. So it’s natural that they get passed down the generational line. It’s not that we do an abundance of bad things. It’s that the abundance of bad things our children do are the same as things we did.

We all know this is true. How many times have you complained about your children to someone who knew you as a kid only to get a side glare and a sarcastic…

Oh yeah? Tommy likes to dip his feet in the toilet? I seem to remember a certain someone who did that when they were little. Grandma needed to get the carpet steam cleaned that one Christmas because of you.

Seeing your faults play out on a small human screen can be jarring. There’s nothing like having a mirror held up for all the issues you try to ignore about yourself. Although rarely talked about, it’s one of the strangest parts of parenting. Seeing your negative qualities on full display allows you to not only verify that they exist but understand what it’s like for others to experience them. Sometimes it can be a bit depressing.

Wow. Am I like that? That’s annoying. I should stop.

Correcting our own faults in our children can feel almost therapeutic. We all want the best for our kids. It’s a desire that outweighs my want to do what’s best for myself. This, however, is one of those instances where they are one in the same. If I fix it in them, I’ll fix it in me, and we’ll all be better for it. Sounds nice. Hopefully it will happen.

And if not, I’ll just fix it in them and not to mention the whole, you know, me part. It’s fine. I’ll get to me eventually. Just don’t tell my kids.