Of course, I’m pretty sure this meant not getting pregnant (twice!) before turning 21 and walking down the long aisle of marriage.
I’m also positive she didn’t mean for me to cover my arms in tattoos or pierce every conceivable part of my body that wasn’t on my face.
If she had her druthers it would have meant going to medical school, becoming a world class surgeon, finding a rich husband and then popping out 2.5 children to raise in my mansion by the lake.
We all can’t set that type of example, though, can we?
Like everyone else, I have made choices I didn’t always think through, some I’ve regretted, others, not so much.
I still don’t regret the ink or the piercings. However, I do regret that time I cut off all my hair and dyed the remnants to look like a walking Oreo cookie though.
As much as my mom may have sighed heavily over some of my choices, her voice has continued to ring in my ears, like that tiny little voice of conscience.
Be the example you want to set.
I tell my kids this all the time. And I hope they are hearing it unlike when I tell them to pick up their dirty socks and put them in the laundry hamper.
I want my kids to learn to use their own moral compass the way my mother has taught me. And now that I am a parent, having a strong sense of self has never been more important.
I need to be the example I want to set for my children. This is my guideline for my life. I try to make most of my choices with this in mind.
It’s why I only buy the non-sugared cereal and hide my vodka in a glass of orange juice. It may also be the reason I get dressed five minutes before they get home from school and try to only curse creatively around them.
I’m being an example.
I’m not perfect and more often than I’d like, I fail. I make mistakes and I know my children will too. Perfection is for the over-achievers and the boring. But still, I’ve never stopped striving to be that example I want to set for my kids.
Which is why, this holiday season, as we readied ourselves to spend an entire day with my husband’s side of the family, I kept muttering to myself, “Be the example,” like a crazy street person and my husband seriously wondered if I needed medication.
My relationship with the bulk of my husband’s side of the family has been rocky at best. And for the last few years, it’s been at a near record low. It has been about as non-awesome as it can get and while I’d love to place the blame on this squarely at the feet of my in-laws, I’m not completely without culpability in all of it.
Mostly because my mouth likes to run away from me when I am not paying attention and because I have often forgotten how to be that damn example my mom keeps yammering on about.
But this year I was determined to make things work. I was going to put on my grown up pants no matter how ill fitting they felt and I was just going to deal with my problems the way an intelligent reasonable adult would.
I was going to drown my woes with liquor and pie.
Except I didn’t need to.
It turns out, being that example was easier than I had thought it would be. Christmas was saved for all with a small attitude adjustment of mine.
You could say it was a true Christmas miracle.
There was no fighting, no dirty looks, no hurt feelings. It was pleasant. Probably because all the other grown ups around me were used to wearing their adult pants, unlike me.
I was the example I wanted to set. And it felt good.
Which totally means I can get another tattoo.
And maybe even buy a box of sugared cereal to share with my children.
Turns out, my mom was right all these years. Being that example you want to set really does have its benefits.
Maybe I should have listened a little sooner.