21 April 2016

The Power of Modeling

I ran downstairs to grab a tapestry needle out of the craft cabinet, but I still needed my fingers to re-close the child-safety lock, so I slipped the oversized plastic needle between my first and second fingers on my left hand. I was struck with the urge, so after I locked the cabinet, I put the need needle between my lips and pretended to take a long drag. I let balanced my elbow on my hand while I puffed out pretend smoke and let my fingers casually relax, the tips curling around the plastic cigarette in what I imagined was an attractive, "lady in red" type pose.

I've never smoked. Not one cigarette. But my parents smoked during my entire childhood. There were very remorseful the entire time - they told us they started because they wanted to be cool and because the dangers of smoking were unknown at the time. When we would stop at the gas station on our way out of town to buy another pack, my parents were bemoan the cost - my dad would tell my sister and I things like, "If I put all the money I've spent on cigarettes into buying silver, we'd be rich by now." Many, many times he would get back in the car, close the door, buckle his seat, and tell us in a serious voice, "Never start smoking." My sister and I would come home from school after a D.A.R.E program day and lecture our parents on the dangers of smoking, but they never quit. We hated that they smoked, we would huddle together in my room and wonder why they didn't quit - why they let themselves be slaves to the addiction.

Their "do as we say, not as we do" did stick with me, though, thankfully, and I have never put a real cigarette to my lips. But it was modeled for me. Day after day for 18 years. And even though they said it was bad and I knew it was bad and I never tried it, here I am, still moved by urges to imitate smoking.

That is the power we have over our children. All the little things we model every day: how we react when something doesn't work, what we say when we stub our toes, how we treat our spouse when we are mad at them. The cuss words we use, the phone we whip out when we sit down on the couch. The smoking realization makes me meditate on the things I don't like about myself. I've got to change those things, or at the very least try. Even if I don't succeed, at least I will have modeled for my children the desire to change.

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