By: Janice Johnson-Plumer
When I was my son’s age I had so many role models. I looked up to anyone who was a dancer. I always envied dancers and I imagined that I was going to be the next Jennifer Beals from Flashdance. (I’m sure if you were to ask young girls today, they would have no clue who Jennifer Beals is and what Flashdance is. “Is that an app or something?”).
Now that I am a mother, it scares me to see who kids look up to as their role models. Many times role models are athletes, rappers, Justin Beiber, and whoever else has the glitz and the glam. Even though dancers were my role models, it appeared they were on the up and up and did not have any misfortune that I knew of.
My pastor always preaches to the youth that role models need to be selected very carefully. What you see is not always gold and glamour. Take the case of Aaron Hernandez. Here is a young man with so much potential, a lucrative contract, a beautiful home and family, playing for one of the top teams, and yet his past has caught up with him. Kids had his jersey number with the hopes of one day being just like him. But as soon as the news unfolded of him being involved with a serious crime, it was announced online you can return your jersey and exchange it for another one. In a blink of an eye Aaron Hernandez went from a household name to another statistic in our criminal justice system. What should our kids think? Should they think that once you have fame and fortune this is what it’s all about?
Many of our youth do not live in a two-parent household. My heart aches for young people, especially young boys who do not have a father figure they can look up to, someone in the home to steer them in the right direction. Instead, they look up to athletes. They may think the lifestyle is easy and has endless possibilities of money and fame, so that’s what they strive for. They may think sports will be their ticket out of their situation, but fail to realize what they had to do to get there.
Some of our youth do not even know what a role model is and what defines one. In my opinion, money, fame, and lots of women do not define a role model. To me, a true role model is a person who has sacrificed, worked hard, and has gone above and beyond – not someone who simply has gold chains, cars, women, and baby momma’s.
When I think of my definition, a person who comes to my mind is my mother. She embodied class, had a caring spirit, and gave and sacrificed all she had to ensure that I was taken care of. My mother had a limited education, but she and my father worked hard to make sure I went to college. They worked long and hard to make sure we had a roof over our heads, and it was enough room at the time. They didn’t live beyond their means, but I never thought the wiser.
My mother taught me all of that so I could pass those same values and beliefs on to my son. I recall a time when our son had to be interviewed for a summer camp. During the interview process he was asked a series of thought-provoking questions, including who was his role model? I was sure it was going to be me – after all, he’s attached to my hip. Not the case! My son instantly said his dad was his role model because he taught him his please-and-thank-you’s. “Really!” I thought to myself. I was so thankful that he chose my husband as his role model and not an athlete. (My son plays basketball and football, so he could have easily said someone from either of those sports.)
In times like these you just never know what will come out of your children’s mouths. I truly believe you are your children’s mirror, because I know I have passed on the same values and beliefs from my mother to my son.
Who are your role models? Who do your kids admire? Are they similar or very different? I would like to hear from you.