Well, looks like Tiger Woods is turning out not to be such a stand-up guy after all. A peerless athlete, yes. But as a person, as a husband and as a father the guy is... to put it mildly, woefully far from perfect.
So - what does that have to do with us?
No, really - not much at all. Because here's the thing: Celebrities are not role models. I know, shocking, right? They're famous, fallible people whom we "know" but don't really know at all. Yes, they live in the spotlight - and it's both fascinating and unfortunate that that spotlight has grown so incredibly illuminating, so in depth, that we know so many details about the lives of people we've never met, even the "private" ones who don't court fame for fame's sake. But looking up to these people is a dangerous trap - and something I hope I never catch myself modeling for my daughter.
Because guess what? We are our children's most important role models. It's no use getting outraged when yet another celebrity falls from his pedestal. What about the children who look up to him, we moan. What we should really be asking is - what kind of role models are WE? Forget about Miley Cyrus and her propensity to pole-dance. Forget about sports-hero / ladies man-centaur A-Rod. And, yes, forget about Tiger Woods. Sure, it's a shame when someone we've admired turns out to have ugly flaws.
Yes, people like Miley and Tiger, who hold the public eye - and the imaginations of our children, do have a responsibility not to act like assholes when their failures will be seen by so many. But so do the rest of us. And really, it's moments like this when, as annoying and difficult as it may be it's the perfect time to ask ourselves, as parents: What kind of example am I setting? And is it strong enough to override whatever nonsense comes from the celebrity world we're all so fixated on?
In a few years when my daughter (now only 6) is much more aware of the crazy world around her, when she starts reading magazines (note to self: find a better hiding place for Us Weekly) and understanding things she hears on the news, or on TV, or from her friends, I can only hope that her father and I have done a good enough job of modeling the kind of behavior we purport to value, and that we've established our authority strongly enough in her eyes that when she looks up, it's us she's looking at, and it's something admirable and good she's seeing.
That's a tall order. It's scary to be a parent, and to know that of all the people in the world, my husband and I will have the biggest influence on this perfect, innocent little being. It's exhausting, to be honest - and I know that I fail her every day in so many little ways, by not being patient enough, by fighting with my husband in front of her, by giving in to my road rage and cursing at that IDIOT in front of me, by losing my temper over her incredibly aggravating slow-motion math homework avoidance-tactics (AUGHGGH!).
But in the bigger things, I hope, I pray, that I'm making the right decisions, and leading a good life by example. As her parents, by what we do - not so much by what we say - we're showing her what's important, what matters, how to behave and interact with others, how to respect and love not just other people, but, most importantly, herself.
And that's where, in my opinion, Tiger has failed the most. Not as a public role model, but a private one. As a father, in his betrayal of his own children. They're too young to really understand what's going on, yes, and that's something of a blessing - though they are surely feeling the repercussions all the same. But that's something that he will have to reckon with on his own, and try to repair.
So when something like this happens, when yet another ersatz star falls out of the paper sky, rather than shake our fists at the corruption of another "role model," let's instead let it be a lesson, and an opportunity for a little old-fashioned reflection.
Tiger Woods is no role model. But are we?
This post is cross-posted at BettyConfidential.
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