From his dad, Bruce Springsteen learned about shame, about broken pride, and struggling with demons that you can’t quite conquer. It’s an all too common story, unfortunately. The lack of a strong role model leaves a void that haunts a kid forever, even long after they leave the house. You can hear that pain in Springsteen’s songs today.
As unlucky as Bruce was to be dealt that hand, he was also incredibly lucky. Because in his mother he had a very different example, one that taught him very different things. In his memoir, Born to Run, Bruce writes about visiting his mom at work, Lawyers Titles Inc, where she was a legal secretary. Where his dad was angry and bitter, his mom was brave and tough. He could see himself in her and it called him to be better. “I am proud, she is proud,” he wrote, recalling how it felt to see her in her element, away from their house, doing her job. “We are handsome, responsible members of this one-dog burg pulling our own individual weight, doing what has to be done. We have a place here, a reason to open our eyes at the break of day and breathe in a life that is steady and good.”
Again, this is why we have to remember that our children are always watching. This is why we have to let them see us work. We want to teach them what it takes to survive in this world. We want them to see us dressed up, sleeves rolled up, surrounded by people who respect and depend on us. We want them to see us not only at our private worst, but also at our public best.
“Truthfulness, consistency, professionalism, kindness, compassion, manners, thoughtfulness, pride in yourself, honor, love, faith in and fidelity to your family, commitment, joy in your work and a never-say-die thirst for life,” Bruce wrote decades removed from those afternoons at the legal office in New Jersey, “Those are some of the things my mother taught me and that I struggle to live up to.”
Do the same for your kids and they’ll never forget it.