A couple of weeks ago, I did a guest post on Punch Debt in the Face and spoke of Positive Role Models. I originally wrote the negative role model article first, and then realized positive role models might be even more important in the molding of a youth, hence the second article.
So here it is, Negative Role Models:
As a toddler, one of my alternate identities was the “kid in the bar”. You see, my father had a drinking problem and he was also my babysitter. While my mother was at work, my dad would go to the bar and get plastered. One of my first happy memories was sitting at a bar drinking ginger ale. The barman decided to give me a treat and put a maraschino cherry in it. I was thrilled because we never had soda at home let alone a jar of maraschino cherries. While the other kids were playing at the park, I was sitting in a bar being a good girl. What that meant was that I sat quietly and didn’t bother anyone while dad and his friends drank. It was torture because we practically had to walk by the park to get to the bar and I loved the park. As you can imagine, my socialization skills were a bit lacking as a result. From a psychologist’s point of view, I’m sure I wasn’t far off from one those kids raised by wolves.
Well, as a curious kid, you can only take so much sitting around and doing nothing, so one day I wondered off and decided to explore the neighborhood. I was so young (3) that I don’t remember if I realized dad was so drunk he wouldn’t notice or if so much time had elapsed that I just couldn’t sit still anymore. Either way, he didn’t seem to mind or notice when I walked out the door. The bar was very dark and when I stepped out the door and saw daylight, it was truly intoxicating. It was like leaving a movie theater after a matinee. You almost forget that it’s daytime when you’re cooped up for hours in a dank, windowless, smoke filled bar.
As it was told to me many years later, the reason I did not get lost was that someone in a neighboring store recognized me as “the kid in the bar.” But they also knew who my mom was because I would go grocery shopping with her. So, a kind soul took me aside and called my mother to let her know I was wandering the streets alone. These types of incidents would sober dad up for a few months before he’d go on another tear.
Dad always complained of the financial position he was in and always was jealous and bitter about people who had better lives than him, especially minorities. He was racist and during this time, the Cosby show was a big hit on TV. It drove him nuts that a black man was a millionaire and we were barely scraping by making minimum wage.
He was very good mechanically. When he and mom were both working and not drinking, life was pretty good. I digress, but in retrospect, I wish I could meet and thank his boss. Somehow he managed to keep his job despite being drunk for months at a time. Imagine calling in sick for 4 months, then working 3, then calling in sick the next 2 months. It would never happen in this day and age.
Although he was good at his job when he was there, he was limited to how much responsibility he could have because he did not speak English very well. He was told he could get paid more and get a promotion if he learned to communicate. However, it was much easier for him to complain about how life dealt him a bitter hand, so that’s what he opted to do instead.
So, here is the moral of the story. I would look at him and think: maybe if you got off your butt and stopped complaining your life would be better. My dad was not a positive role model. He was one of the worst ones I know. I’m convinced it is part of the reason I am so driven. My worst nightmare was to end up like him.
Here’s what I learned from him:
- Drinking can ruin your life. Be very scared of drinking and drugs. They can control you and not the other way around.
- Complaining, although effortless, does not make your life better, it only makes you wallow in your self-pity even more.
- If you don’t like the situation you’re in, take steps to change it…even the smallest ones provide hope for a better life.
- Even if a choice is difficult to implement, it’s still better than feeling trapped in the situation you’re in.
Over the years, my perspective has changed and I realize now that I may not be where I am today without also having a few very positive role models in my life as well. I saw people like my mother, uncle, and friend’s parents working hard and having good lives.
Has anyone had a negative role model that provided a positive example of how not to live life?