One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is not being a role model for achievement (although that is important), or being present at many of their activities (although that is very important, too), or being actively engaged in molding their child to be a good citizen (although that is needed), or being a good financial provider (although that is expected).
Rather one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their children, in my opinion, is regular transparent glimpses into that parent’s humanness. Not showing flaws or foibles for the sake of exposure—like showing off a war wound. But an honest reflection of what that parent is thinking, feeling, and experiencing (to the extent the parent really knows him or herself). In other words, not playing the role of “Father Knows Best” or “How I Became the Queen Bee” But rather the daily role of “Father (or Mother) Tries Hard Most Days and Gets it Wrong about as Often as he (or she) gets it Right.”
The other qualities listed in the first paragraph teach children how to “appear” and be perceived by others as successful. But a parent who is consistently transparent can help set an internal barometer for children that will serve them well—helping them to know themselves and trust their instincts. Not just seem to be holding it together.
Of course, it’s important for children to grow up to exemplify model behavior, to be consistent and active and responsible. But I believe it is even more important for them to have the confidence be be real. To be authentic…..and not be confused about how to do that. And if they haven’t learned how by watching their parents it’s like expecting a child to know the native language even though it was never spoken in the home.
No one strives to be merely authentic as an end in itself. Or the related traits of transparent and self-aware. We strive instead to be successful, great, courageous, and a dozen other various forms of “achievement.” But authenticity is often the precondition for these so called achievements. And even when it’s not, it is the greatest consolation. A person who has a long resume but isn’t comfortable in his or her own skin, isn’t self-aware or genuine, is a shell of the person who has these attributes but, for the moment, possesses a slimmer resume.
The former is more like an automaton–a robot. A well trained animal who performs on cue and is applauded.
But the latter is someone who is worth getting to know and who has something meaningful to say. And is leading a life worth living. Not merely seeking to perform a life worth applauding.