Two things my parents didn't do that greatly impacted my own life choices:
They didn't drink alcohol.
They didn't use swear words.
I figured out later in life that my mom did, in fact, consume wine when she was out to dinner or with girlfriends, but it wasn't kept in our home. I do remember her uttering an unmentionable once when the car wouldn't start, and something equally vivid came out of my dad's mouth once when the boat was approaching the dock full speed. Two words out of an entire childhood, and they stuck with me as exceptions.
I was in college the first time I saw my dad order a margarita, but much younger when I spied a six pack of beer in the fridge of one of my friend's parents. Both times I was slightly scandalized.
Further, none of my parents friends drank or swore, either. A large group of family friends all spent our weekends on an Oklahoma lake, but a vat of my mom's tea and cold soft drinks were the only beverage option. Alcohol and curse words were so off my radar until I was in high school, I didn't have anything to rebel against. By the time I was old enough to realize that other people did these things and that they were normal, I just wasn't interested.
Now I'm raising a family where the same sort of shelter isn't an option. At almost every family and friendly gathering, there is an adult beverage served and the occasional use of colorful language. No matter my own comfort level, this is our reality.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about the differences between my childhood and the one I'm creating for my own kids. My parents were not (are not) the preach-at-you type. I am a much more vocal parent than either of my own, both in culture and in personality. But my gut tells me that my parents were far more effective. They did not give me constant directives. They led by example.
In most ways, I am glad that my kids will grow up with a more culturally and intellectually diverse perspective. I want them to see adults doing adult things responsibly, and I want them to understand that their words matter. I want to be a woman that my daughter will try to emulate, a reference that she'll come back to as she's finding her own path.
I really haven't figured out how to do that yet. How to show and not tell. Even with the quiet example of my own parents, I don't know how to make my kids Do As I Do AND Do As I Say. I suppose that's the whole point - that you can't make your kids do anything. I know that you can daily display your own character and hope that it gives them the right tools to make most of the right choices.
I know that one works, because I experienced it.
This is part of my Mommy Mondays series. It's the one day of the week when I write about the parenting trip. And for the record? I do love a strawberry margarita and a cold glass of pinot grigio. Usually not together.