Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Your WHAT?!?!

So it seems that I’ve taken on a new position in life, one that I didn’t ask for and one that I’m not sure how to fulfill. Remember my cousin K couldn’t wait to join the “Big Kids Club?” Over the past few weeks she’s turned 14 , been given her own cell phone with unlimited text messaging (which means I’ve had to increase mine because I get no less than 20 a day from her), and decided that she and I need to start hanging out together. She also called me something that scared the bejesus out of me. What could she have called me that made me choke on my water and sent shudders up and down my spine (and no doubt her mothers)? She called me her role model.

I tried to discourage this – surely there is someone else who could do a better job than me, right? Right!?! I offered up her 8th grade language arts teacher (who happens to be my BFF) she has good morals, doesn’t drink, goes to church, and with the exception of hanging out with me has a squeaky clean record. I suggested a few celebrities – Miley Cyrus, ooohh she’s a good one, Hannah Montana, how can you go wrong with that and she’s on the Disney Channel, bonus points for being wholesome! You want someone older? Ok how about Hilary Duff or Amanda Bynes, they’re good role models right?

Unfortunately K wasn’t swayed and remained adamant. So here I am a role model. While I don’t go around flashing my naughty bits for the entire world to see and I’m entirely way too vain to spontaneously shave my head, I do have my moments. I’ve been known to hit people with umbrellas, chase down rude teenagers with flashy sports cars, and drunk dial my best friend’s dad to reassure him that we aren’t catching the house on fire while guzzling moonshine from a mason jar. I tend to swear like a sailor when I’m really angry, sometimes even when I’m not. I’m a liberal in an extended family of Christian conservatives. I gave up going to church a long time ago because I don’t believe a lot of what’s preached from the pulpit. I often call my grandmother by her first name and refuse to allow her to define what she thinks my life should be, sometimes quite vocally. I speak sarcasm fluently. I make jello shots and share them to my grandfather because hey, he needs a break from my grandma too sometimes. I make no apologies for who I am, even if it’s not what the rest of my family (and K’s mom) thinks I should be (married, with 2.5 children and a mortgage). I’m the one who’s missed important family events (like weddings or baby showers) because I’ve chosen to go off on a road trip with my friends. I can't even get my own library card!! Does that sound like someone you want to be a role model to your kids?

Sure, I do have my redeeming qualities but being a role model is a tall order to fill. Especially to someone like K who has lived a pretty sheltered life so far. Sometimes she asks me questions and I refuse to lie her about my beliefs. One conversation in particular revolved around the fact that I don’t go to church:

K: Mandy, why don’t you come to church with the rest of us (and by rest of us she means my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and other 4 or 5 cousins who all attend the same church).
M: Well, I just don’t share the same beliefs that everyone else does, so I don’t like to go pretend that I do. (And I really like sleeping in on Sunday morning.)
K: Nanny says that you were taught to believe the same things we are. (And why is my grandmother discussing things like this with my little cousins, good question.)
M: Of course I was taught the same things; I just choose to believe something different.
K: Ohhhhh. (insert light bulb going off over her head) You can do that?

See, without even meaning to I slightly corrupted her! As much as I enjoy corrupting children and teaching them to be free thinking individuals such as myself, I prefer to do it without a title of role model. The title comes with pressure that I don’t like. I feel like she’s put me up on a pedestal, which for someone like me who has no sense of coordination and is prone to tripping, maybe isn’t such a good thing. Or maybe she just needs someone to teach her that there are different ways of looking at the world (and heaven knows I tend to look at it different than most of the rest of the family). How do I figure out this whole role model thing that probably scares me as much as it does her parents? How do I teach her that just because I am who I am and believe what I believe doesn't necessarily mean its what she needs to be and believe?

15 comments:

nory said...

All very good questions.
As long as she knows that what you do isn't what she has to do I'm sure you'll be fine. Maybe through being her role model you can expose her to other views, other people and she can learn to choose and decide things for herself. I would be that somewhere down the line she'll come to for some advice about boys or school or whatever and you'll be able to help her in that way too, if that makes sense?

The Alleged Ringleader said...

Congrats! I know you didn't ask for it but you could definitely teach her a few things, maybe even different perspectives and like Nory said, she can choose and learn for herself. I think you should embrace this, it will be good!

Little Fish said...

I started reading this and instantly I had all these things whilrling around my head to write to you and defend why you are an excellent role model, but then, as I read further, I realized that you'd already said it yourself. "I make no apologies for who I am," is exactly why you make a great role model. I know that you would never ever teach K that she shouldn't go to church. You'll teach her that strong empowered woman make their own choices in life and that if she decides that church is right for her that you'll be just as proud of her as if she followed your path. The best lessons we can teach young girls is to be strong and follow their own hearts and minds and I think that you are a great example of that.

Stiletto Sports Jen said...

ooooh I totally feel your pain!
I'm 29 (gasp, almost 30...)
My brothers & sisters are 44+
My neices and nephews on the other hand.....
Jessica is 22 (and about to be married before me which is a whole other painful story.)
The boys are 15-16
And the youngest is 8.

And I am so not a good influence at all! In fact, I think my one sister would prefer if I never spoke to her children ever again. (Imagine if she knew we talked on Facebook.....)

Good role model or bad--- all these years I've love being Cool Aunt Jen!

ps--love your writing. It really makes me smile every day!

Ashley said...

Hmm, I'm not sure, but I'm thinking that you should be really honest about the fact that you're not comfortable being a role model and that she should make up her own mind about things.

I find with my mentors that they strongly push me in certain directions and I begin to think like them, but they also really encourage me to go my own direction, so that when I disagree, it's okay.

Anyway, I think you are a good role model, so I wouldn't worry too much about that.

MeLaNiE said...

this post cracks me up! I think you are a very good role model..I mean we all have our wild side, right? She's lucky to have you to corrupt her! :)

lucklys said...

yeah, i have the same problem with my little sister. or i used to. my parents hated that i refused to go to church and that i said (out loud) that i didn't believe in their god. then, the night our brother died, they were angry at me for telling her that he had killed himself. i'm expected to lie about things that are either extremely important or barely noteworthy. the fact that i've tried all sorts of drugs? if that were to come up in conversation with my sister because she ASKED, not because i chose not to lie to her, i would be banned from family functions, i'm sure.

the thing i have to remember is that my sister will believe what she wants, choose what she wants, and retain what she wants. my parents don't give her enough credit sometimes, so in ways, i think i am a pretty damn good role model for her, even if i'm not exactly what my parents wish i was.

Amandaaa said...

I think all of the reasons you
said why you aren't a good
role model, make you a good
role model indeed. Does that
make sense?

You are your own person. And just
by not going to church and
doing something because everyone
else in your family feels like
you should shows K that it's okay
to stand on your own two feet. To
not jump on the bandwagon. That's
important for a 14 year old to know!

You don't need to do anything
special...you need to just keep
doing what you've been doing to have her tell you that you're
her role model. She will continue
to appreciate your honesty and
genuine ways!

Bayjb said...

Yeah I'm not a good influence, but I encourage my cousins and goddaughter to think on their own and talk to their parents but keep an open mind. That's probably why they don't visit :)

Auburn Kat said...

Those are great questions! My answer to you - just be yourself, it's what you do best! =)

Seriously, I think that you are a great roll model because you follow your heart and what you believe in even if it's not what everyone else agrees with.

Trina G. said...

I'm dying here Mandy...hilarious! I forgot you can't get a library card....ASA even has a library card, LOL.
Great job on being a great mentor. you kick ass.

Gemma said...

labels and the pressure they bring. blergh!

alexa - cleveland's a plum said...

i think she'll figure it out on her own, and honestly i wouldn't try to persuade her thoughts.

hey, you turned out ok right?

Fritz said...

you do not have to 'teach' her anything, everything that you believe in is everything she sees, just by being your own person is the perfect role model, but i wouldnt let titles get in the way, i am sure she will find her own way through life just with a little inspiration from her totally cool bkcbff! i wouldnt stress too much about it!

Andy said...

I think that my sister thinks the same way about me. But the quirk is, we're both different. Very different.

Plus, I'm considered the black sheep of the family. Not liking church, questioning my beliefs, wanting desperately to leave to a country where gay marriage is allowed and where my grandma is sure I'll go sleeping around... In her words I'm "too liberal to be a woman". It drives me nuts.

All and all, you should just let her know she can be whoever she wants. And do whatever she wants, as long as she doesn't harm the rest. You're like that and that's what you can teach her.