Do as I say, not as I do

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This is an article I wrote for the Parenting Point column in Anniston/Gadsden Christian Family magazine. You can visit that site here.

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If you watch television, you may have seen the series of commercials where adults begin to act exactly like their parents. While humorous, the commercials ring true. That’s what makes them funny.

At some point, most of us begin to assume certain traits or mannerisms from our parents or role models. Maybe it’s osmosis. Maybe it is God’s sense of humor. The best we can hope for is to borrow good traits to use as our own.

I’d never thought about it until it happened to me. One day, when both of my kids were still riding in car seats, I overheard a conversation in the back seat as I was driving home. My kids are only twelve months apart, so they have always been willing to help each other with language skills. As I tuned in, I heard my son explaining to his sister that the people in the car next to us were dumb. I had to jump in.

“Son, we don’t talk about people like that.”

“Dad, you say it all the time.”

He was right on both accounts. Although the people in the other car may not have technically been “dumb,” they were not good drivers. Also, I do say things in traffic from time to time. Then, I turned into my parents for the first time.

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

I always hated that saying. To a kid, it doesn’t make sense. Yet, there it was flying right out of my mouth with ease. It’s a harsh reality when you first notice you have become your parent.

Another time, not too long after that, I heard my kids laughing at the other end of the hall. I looked around the corner and my daughter was walking very slow and blocking my son. They were both laughing and he yelled out “come on lady, move!”

I stood there speechless. My wife heard them and reminded me where they learned it. I didn’t need to be reminded. I knew.

Since then, I have tried to be more aware of my traffic personality. I still get impatient and, often, instruct other drivers—unbeknownst to them—what lane they should be in instead of mine. Sometimes, I catch myself and turn my thoughts to God instead. Maybe that person can’t drive faster or maybe they are having a bad day. You never know what is going on in someone’s life when you see them. Sometimes, I even say a prayer for the stranger. I should do that more.

Jesus would never tell us to “do as he says, not as he does.” Scripture tell us to strive to be like Christ. He stepped down from his seat in Heaven to walk with us and show us how to live. We all fall short but that doesn’t mean we should give up trying. God’s grace is there to say “try again.”

I laugh when I think back on those experiences. My children taught me a lot about myself and it was a lesson I needed to learn. Kids do pay attention more than you think and one day they are going to turn into you too.

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