Naturally, we want to be perfect for our kids, in no small part because for the first several years of their lives, to them we can do no wrong and we want to prove them right. But since we know we’re not perfect, inevitably we feel guilty or inadequate when we let them down–even if they’re unaware of it at the time. This feeling of insufficiency can be so powerful that we are prone to hiding it or lying about it or worse, acting like hypocrites.
You might think it was devastating for the comedian Pete Davidson, who lost his father on September 11th, to learn that his father was far from perfect. His parents’ marriage had not been great (which is why they were separated and divorced not long before that fateful day). His father had done drugs and gotten into trouble more than once in his adult life. As Pete grew older and discovered more and more about his heroic father, who died saving people in the collapse of the Twin Towers, he wasn’t disappointed, he was heartened.
These failings and foibles humanized his father in a way that the stories his friends and family told the then 7-year old Pete about his dad never could. “It made me realize that he had his own issues,” Pete explained to Judd Apatow in Sicker in the Head. “He had problems just like everybody else. But it also made me realize that even with all that, his morals were still intact, and none of that prevented him from being a hero.”
No one is perfect, least of all you. We are all complicated. You don’t need to hide it. You don’t need to feel guilty. It won’t prevent you from being great at this most important job…nor from being a hero if the moment calls for it.