What exactly does a "role model" family look like? Since the shooting in Invercargill of Verity Ann McLean, allegedly by her policeman husband, role model families are under the spotlight. Apparently the Invercargill couple was one. That's according to many people that know the family well.

I suspect those who see their friends or neighbours as role model families believe what they see on the outside is what it is. All good and sound. A reflection of their own thinking, values, beliefs and actions.

This is often not the case at all. What you see can mask another side completely. Ask the children of so called role model families, they'll give you the real lowdown.

Parents usually well educated, one if not both, in good well-paying jobs. Connected with the school community, at least while their children are at school, and taking an active part and contributing in community activities. Visible families. Nothing at all wrong with them. They don't want to be seen as a role model family. They are just getting on with life. But I think people sometimes look longingly at some families believing these are what the rest of us want to be like. They are who we know, feel comfortable around and trust.

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Then along comes something that shatters this illusion. We have set ourselves up for disappointment. Role model families are rarely role model families. They are what we perceive them to be. But all families are different. When our own lives are sometimes chaotic and boisterous, perhaps without direction, we look at others and kid ourselves into believing they've got the recipe right. But we never know what's going on in their lives. What happens behind closed doors. We can only ever see the outward appearance.

If you talk to the children about their role model family, their home life and their parents, often a completely different picture emerges. Children have nothing to hide and are not telling tales on their parents. They are truthful. They don't have to be what they're not. They don't have to pretend.

They know their parents no longer sleep in the same bed. That they don't talk respectfully to each other anymore. That holidays are taken separately. There is constant fighting over money. That they change their behaviour and act as if everything is normal when nana and poppa arrive for the weekend. Children will tell you what a role model family looks like in reality.

The other families are quietly getting on with life. They love each other and are grateful for their good health. They try to make ends meet as best they can and don't spend endless hours arguing about money. They take their children to sports activities and will help out and show up to watch when work commitments allow. The try to handle life's ups and downs and take every day as it comes. They stand by their neighbours and friends in times of need.

Are these role model families? They wouldn't say they were. Yet these families are everywhere. They are your everyday family, friend and neighbour. The doctor, school caretaker, nurse who works the night shift, supported living worker, teacher and company director. The bus driver, shop assistant, farmer, politician and police officer. They are everyone that makes up community. They don't see themselves as role models to the outside world. Only to members of their own family. They just want to do life well and set a good example for their children. They take the time to stop and listen to their children and try to understand their issues and problems. At all times they give unconditional love.

I don't know any role model families. Only good families like those above. They are like autumn leaves, found everywhere.

Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.