As a parent – well, really, as a human, whether you have kids or not – you will find, in this life, that you’re always setting an example for others. Be those others your children, or fellow humans, your choices will have an impact.
I’ve often heard the term “lead by example”, but recently I find myself thinking a bit differently. I think the onus is on us to “live by example” – every choice we make has an effect on those around us, whether we recognize it or not. And chances are, if you have toddlers in your house, you’ve been forced to recognize this rather inconvenient truth (with apologies to Al Gore and Leo). Your choices are mirrored back to you everyday, from the words you use to the habits you’ve unconsciously sidled into.
Our twins are two now and have the uncanny ability to mimic our behaviours exactly. It’s like living with world class impressionists. And it’s made me more aware of the habits, behaviours, attitudes and beliefs that I’m passing onto my kids. That realization can hurt. The truth is, I haven’t always done things well. I haven’t always set a good example (unless, the reverse is true, and I have been establishing an excellent example of what NOT to do in life).
I have been a binge eater for years. I associate food with stress relief, which leads to overeating, which then leads to berating myself and making myself feel worse for having behaved badly in response to whatever stressor set me off this time… which, in turn, leads to more self-destructive behaviours. The cycle is vicious and can seem endless when you’re trapped inside it. It feels too hard to make a change. The reality is, you may not be happy in self-destruction mode, but there’s comfort to be found in the consistency and the complacency of your actions. At least, that’s been my experience. Recently, I’ve been making some significant changes for my own health. I want more for myself in this life. And I want more for my kids.
So, these days when I catch myself wanting to find comfort in all the wrong foods for all the wrong reasons, I stop and check in. What is this behaviour? Where did this thought come from? Is it going to serve me well in the choices I’ve made to make positive, lasting changes in my life? Is it going to help me be a living example of strength and good health for my kids?
If the answer is no, then it’s time to take a step back and ask myself if it’s truly worth it. One tasty cheezy poof is a slippery slope for me, simply because I can never stop at one. So, it makes sense to ask myself if I can handle the consequences for the one small step that unleashes an avalanche of bad behaviour.
Plus, they’re watching. They’re always watching. And taking notes, I swear. So I choose to live by example for my kids. I don’t always get it right. I am definitely a work in progress. But practice makes progress (so says the Happy Monster Band), and I believe I’m moving in the right direction.
With love and gratitude,