I see my son throwing food around the room, "Don't do that!" I might yell. Then I think about his point of view, he sees me throw things in the garbage, toss clothes in a basket, and make toys go to their homes with a hook shot. What is he supposed to think?
I see him (and hear him) yell at me or his sister and I recall that I yell (despite my best efforts) at him and his sister. He sees his mother and I raise our voices. Of course we taught him that too.
I'm a terrible parent. What kind of example am I putting forth? The child acts as a magnified mirror lit up by midday sun. There is no hiding from the blemishes of my personality that gleam in the spotlight of my kids.
As I beat myself up silently, he comes over and offers a hug and a smile. I tickle him and he let's out a guffaw of pure joy. Music plays in the background and he bobs his little head to the beat. We go for a walk and he looks and points with wonder at all the sights, beaming with the intensity of a supernova.
My daughter asks "Daddy are you OK?" with genuine concern every time I cough or stub a toe. She inquires about my mother's condition when she sees her use a walker. She shares toys with strangers, teaches (or tries to) her brother how to hold a crayon. When we see a homeless person, she'll ask why they sleep on the street and wonder if there's something we can do for them. She makes friends faster than you can say "what's your name?" and gladly helps me in a million ways with cleaning and caring for her baby brother. Sometimes the mirror is more kind than others. I'm a great parent! She's watched her mother and I do these things. Her kind actions are a flattering reflection on us.
The truth is we're not "good" or "bad" parents. We're just a couple of grown up kids doing our best to reflect the best of our parents and to hide the worst. Just as they were. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear, but don't forget to look forward. No matter how well or how poorly we did today, tomorrow we'll look at a new face and decide what images we'll project for our kids once again. Smile into the mirror and it will smile back.