By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Mommy Musings Lost In The Media
Placeholder Image
And so ... it finally happened. Earlier this month as our state continued to search for a budget, our country continued to search for a financial plan, our soldiers continued to fight in Iraq and gas prices once again started to rise - the fact was finally confirmed. Michael Phelps is human.

After months and months of speculation during the summer of 2008, as this athlete took to the water, 'merman' became a phrase many of us became familiar with. And then he had to go and do the unthinkable. He forgot about the pedestal he had been placed on by so many and tried to live a 'normal' life while taking a break from the pool.

This of course would prove to be not only a big, but costly, mistake. The good news is, he is young, charismatic and gifted and financially he will recover.

What now concerns me, as a parent, is how passionate so many became about this one person's irresponsibility and the effect it would now have on so many children, the word 'role-model' constantly coming to the forefront of each conversation and article written.

As all this unfolded I could not help but continue to scratch my head over why this was such a big deal. Sure, I get that millions of children, even adults, admire this man for what he has accomplished. But when is it that as a society we allowed ourselves to stop viewing people as people (with imperfections) and began expecting those in the limelight to live without fault?

Many gave me the irresponsibility to his young fans argument. Teenagers who will now follow suit, thinking smoking marijuana is okay. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but long before Michael Phelps was even an embryo teenagers have tried marijuana. I myself have even 'inhaled' and it was not because of a celebrity endorsement, but because my friends were doing it.

When I was growing up many celebrities died from drug overdoses. Elvis Presley and John Belushi are two that immediately come to mind. Both men were respected entertainers in our family. One put music in our hearts and the other helped us laugh deep from the belly, through many a hard time.

I do not recall hearing of their irresponsibility to their young followers in the media. I do, however, remember conversations with my mother on how these two 'celebrities' died and the poor choices they had made. Choices, which ultimately cost them their lives.

Somehow, somewhere, something drastically has changed in our society. With cell phones that double as cameras, as well as video cameras, Internet sites that prey on human imperfection and technology that allows us to now view life unfolding in 'real' time - privacy is now close to extinction.

My argument here is not on the details of Michael Phelps and the choices he has made. He is just one of the latest casualties of the media and our society. My concern is where we as adults have bought into this 'role model' theory.

It is almost as if we are now excusing ourselves of doing the right thing as parents, because ultimately our teens are paying closer attention to these celebrities than us ... right?

Whether our children want to listen or not, as long as they are present under our roof we must always exercise dialogue. They may not want to hear it or say they get it and they don't need us nagging - nag anyway. One never knows what conversation with their teen will resonate the longest and potentially get through. At this time in their lives, we are all they have and whether they want to believe that or not is irrelevant. Remember, we are the grown-ups.

As closely as the media watches celebrities, your child watches you. While it may not seem as evident as they become teenagers - it is still happening. They are now just more critical and analytical. How do I know this? Because once I was a teenager and while I may be older, I am not yet senile. I am certain that the person I have become had nothing to do with Madonna, Brooke Shields or Julia Roberts, but everything to do with my mother and all the wonderful 'normal' people who surrounded me.

Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.