The Full Spectrum: With Me As Role Model, Are My Kids Screwed?

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The Full Spectrum focuses on the trials and tribulations of raising a child who ranks on the autism spectrum.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what kind of role model I am for my kids. As much as I love and respect my own parents (at times), I never really thought of them as role models. As a bit of a rebel without a cause, I’m just not the kind of person who actively looks for people to follow. Of course, I can look around at my life and see my parents’ influences everywhere – I was just never aware of it growing up.

There’s much talk today about the example we set for our children – “How do you expect your children to get along if you’re arguing with your husband all the time?” is one example – and how we must “model” the behavior we are looking for in our kids. This is a lot of pressure for a gal like me. Like many parents I have the added pressure of a child on the spectrum, which means I have multiple therapists telling me it is critical that I model proper social behavior and a myriad of other things like organization and emotional control (yikes).

I want the same things for my children that most mothers do: to become happy, self-reliant, productive, empathetic, successful, articulate, intelligent, loving and loved adults. That’s all I ask. Oh, and also to be fabulous children that call and visit their mother every day. Seriously, if you break down each of the things we dream of for our children and then examine it against your own life, it can be scary.

As a bit of cynic, I’m a mostly happy person but I’ve always got one eye on the door waiting for something bad to happen. I’m independent enough to have a career, husband and children, plus I manage to run a household, but I am writing this post from my parents’ cottage, where I still need to call my dad if something, like the dishwasher, isn’t working properly.

I could write an entire post about my productivity (or lack thereof) but I’ll spare you the details and just say that I have tentatively titled my never-to-be-written autobiography, “I Have Procrastinated And Now There Is Problem.” Worst of all, I can go days without calling my parents and I still bicker with my mom regularly when we are together.

Does this mean my kids are screwed?

When I’m in “good mom” mode, I try my best to shield them from my true self. Smiling lovingly at my husband, for instance, while my eyes tell him to f*ck off. Or I’ll act all organized in the morning, whistling and talking loudly to myself so the kids will hear about all the tasks I am setting out to accomplish that day, when really am just a total stress case about all the things that I’ve waited for the last minute to do (like planning my six-year-old’s birthday party a mere week in advance). I’ll even purposely let the ringing phone that I’m dying to answer go to voicemail just to show the kids that it’s okay to be with yourself quietly. Sound crazy? I’m modeling, goddamn it!

I’d like to think that of all the people in this world, my children would be the ones I could just be myself around – but apparently that is not what’s best for them. When I’m really stressed out about it, I try and remember that my husband says that a dad is a boy’s most important influence (I have two boys). The problem is that I think he made this up, as I can’t find statistical evidence anywhere.

What I’m really trying to say is that my kids can do better than me. There are lots of smarter and more together role models out there. My hope is that I am just one of many great influences in their lives and that each of us brings something different to the table from which they can pick and choose. In our ego-driven society we often want to see ourselves as so important but, in my heart of hearts, I know I am just one piece of the pie.  My kids are really close to their dad, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. All these people are setting examples for them – good and bad. I don’t know what happened to the “It takes a village to raise a child” mentality in our current culture, but I think we could all use a little more we and a lot less of me.

(Photo: Pixland)