My family, along with most of the nation, held our breath and watched as Michael Phelps made Olympic history last year. As a parent, I cheered for other reasons, too: My kids and their friends were fascinated by a clean-cut, hard-working, dedicated and driven young man whom I would be happy to have them emulate.
And then came the photo from the party in South Carolina of Phelps with his cap on backwards, smoking what appears to be marijuana from a glass pipe.
And then the outrage and disappointment -- from parents, from the media, from his corporate sponsors, from the United States Olympic Commission.
But I still think he could be a good role model.
Now, please note that I wrote "could be," not "is." He made a stupid choice (I can't really call it a mistake... I don't think you learn how to use that particular type of pipe by accident). He's being punished (banned from competitive swimming for three months, among other things). But I'm not sure that focusing on his mistake is the way to help our kids learn from this.
I think that character is shown, not just by the choices you make in life, but also by the way you deal with the consequences of those choices. So I'm interested in what happens next.
Our kids aren't perfect -- they will make stupid mistakes and bad choices, too, and some of them will leave us staggering. Along with hoping that they make the right choices, can we teach them to learn from their mistakes and improve themselves? Or do we show them that, if they're not perfect, we'll turn our backs on them?
Parents, do you think it's possible for Michael Phelps -- or A Rod, or Michael Vicks, or Britney Spears, for that matter -- to still become a positive role model again?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.FULL ENTRY