Perhaps the hardest part of parenting is figuring out how to ensure your children don’t grow up to be a-holes. Finding a hiding place to scarf down a bag of Cheetos before they sniff you out and ask you to share is a close second, but I digress. In our house, we follow the very simple yet effective motto of “don’t be a jackleg,” born from my father’s term for various plagues on society. We like to point out jackleg moves, then tell the kids to do the opposite: See that lady texting and driving? She’s a jackleg. If you ever do that, you’ll be a big fat jackleg. Don’t do that. So far, it has provided them with a pretty solid set of parameters for how not to act. But I worry we focus on the negative a little too much. My discipline repertoire could really use some positive reinforcement and a model my kids can strive to be, not avoid.
Then Kanye West went and acted like a jerkwad when Beck won Album of the Year at the Grammys. And I thought to myself, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for.
Full disclosure: I did not watch the Grammys. I didn’t even realize they were on (um, because Walking Dead, people. Priorities.). Nor was I searching out news about them the day after they occurred. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to learn that Kanye again pulled another “Kanye.” You know, because stories about it were EVERYWHERE. Meanwhile, I never once stumbled upon who won Best New Age Album. It’s like nobody cares. (Wait, I don’t care.)
I mean, why should anyone be concerned with the whole music part of the Grammys when there’s a celebrity making a total ass out of himself and playing it off as if he is some great defender of talent and authenticity? THAT is what deserves the front page. It is obviously what the people want. We as a society have proven that a thousand times over. Give us a choice between dirt and a flower; we’ll choose the dirt just about every time.
The Kanyes of the world get the big headlines, the viral number of shares, the honored spot as our topics of conversation. We reward their bad, or stupid, or reckless behavior by keeping them relevant, their names always on our tongues. Meanwhile, stories like Beck being awesome, and gracious, and just going about his business of making Grammy award-winning music take the back seat.
And our children are noticing.
They are a generation growing up in the shadows of reality television, flash-in-pan YouTube stars, TMZ, and social media wars.
But I will be damned if I raise two more little Kanyes to unleash upon this world. Luckily, I already have one thing going for me with a last name like Suellentrop, making it pretty impossible to call my children anything directionally significant. That has to help keep them grounded, right? Still, I can’t rely on their timeless and super-traditional names being the lone things to guide them away from the glory and limelight that often comes with publicity stunts and poor sportsmanship.
What I can do is tell them to “be a Beck.”
“Being a Beck” means taking the high road. It means saying something nice about those who seek to tear you down. It means finding the humor in things that don’t go as planned. It means knowing what and what not to take seriously. It means controlling your own actions and reactions when you can’t control someone else’s. It means being confident enough to understand that the mud people sling has more to say about them than you. It means knowing that arguing with a fool only makes you a fool yourself…so let that fool just go on and talk like someone is listening. And it means quietly doing your own thing, doing it damn well, and letting your hard work, your talent, and your actions speak for themselves.
I will admit, it is hard to “be a Beck.” It is so much easier to pout like Kanye, bad-mouthing another who has succeeded when we have not. We want to give excuses, blaming others when life does not turn out the way we want it to. If someone voices disapproval for us, our gut reaction might be to hurl hurtful words right back.
But “being a Beck” doesn’t mean we can’t feel all those things; we just know we don’t have to act on them. There is reward in that.
Being a Kanye may get you headlines and more Twitter followers. It may help you sell more records and put your name on the lips of millions. It may mean you get the privilege of being the butt of a pretty epic Wayne’s World joke on Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary. I’m sure being a Kanye also means you will be talked about for generations to come. But do you really want your legacy to always begin with, “Remember that hijacked acceptance speech at the Grammys…”? Besides, Hitler has pretty timeless notoriety. So there’s that.
Being a Beck, on the other hand, means you get to walk away with your self-respect…and the respect of pretty much anyone who can see right through the Kanyes. Oh yeah, and you get the Grammy.
So go forth, my children. Don’t be a jackleg. Be a Beck. Because it looks like it has worked pretty well for him.
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