Sitting at a coffee shop in Metuchen tapping away another post for another blog, I ‘m distracted when two little girls sit beside me at the window seat counter.
The younger one is playing with her spoon and the older one says, “Please don’t make a mess of that. You did that once before and remember what happened?” The younger one stops and carefully begins sorting through the card catalogue in her brain for that memory. The older one chimes in again, “I remember that. Mom remembers that. Daddy remembers that.” The younger one squirms around before finally speaking, “I don’t remember that. ”
I don’t know whether or not I believe her but I think Good. Play on.
The older sister couldn’t have been more than 6-years-old but she sounded like a worn-up, played out record. She wasn’t mean about what she said to her younger sister, she was just talking – like kids do – in a way that sounded rehearsed. And then I thought that was probably her mom. That was probably something she heard her mother or father say.
Poof! A magical pit appeared in my belly, a pit that asked this question: What are my kids picking up?
What is it about kids that shine a mirror up to your face in a gremlin-in-the-light kind of way. Ahh, not the truth, put it away. Many times I see my kid do something that I know I do and think Awww… how cute. She’s trying to be like mommy and then there are other times that, let’s just say, if I’m honest, make me afraid that my daughter is going to be exactly like me. Am I the only person that feels this way sometimes?
There are plenty things that my daughter says that are just like me… and they’re aaaa-dor-able.
Lately, when I put her to bed at night she nudges my chin up with her pointer finger and says, “Escuchame – listen to me” and then whispers in her best sage voice a bit of advice that sometimes makes absolutely no sense. Sometimes after putting on her (my) makeup she grabs her (my) purse telling me that she’s going to work and then snatches the car keys and walks out waving. Like I said… aaaa-dor-able.
But, see, here’s the thing, and it might make you mad to hear it but I really think it is essential to good parenting: I can’t just take credit for the good stuff my kids learn. Well, I can but then I’d be an irresponsible parent. I can’t believe that everything good about my kids is because of me but all of their faults, well, that was learned elsewhere obviously. Where else would they have learned it if not me? Caillou, maybe? That’s too easy of an out.
I’ve referred to kids as “drunk people between the hours of midnight and 3am” – fun at first and then crazy, rambling fools that are sometimes violent or pass out. I’ve read other bloggers refer to kids as “little jerks” or “tiny a-holes” and I can’t say that I disagree: drunk, jerky, tiny assholes. But wait for it – is this a reflection of us? Before you lynch me for calling you a drunk, jerky, tiny asshole, let me add that that was more of a rhetorical question. My point was, how much of what they do that is annoying to us is shit that we, ourselves, do; a reflection of what we do and say and act?
Our son who might be the only 16-month old with a black belt in Diaper-Changing Karate kicks his hammer leg down landing some devastating blows. When Husband has finally had it, he pins son’s legs down and says, “Stop it.” He says it in a calm, serious tone but obviously he is annoyed – who wouldn’t be after a hammer leg to the gut? The other day after moving our son away from the garbage cabinet he was so mad that he walked back over and yelled at the cabinet, “Stop it.” Husband and knew where that came from. Then there’s my daughter. She loves her little brother so much but at times, when she gets angry, she yells at him and tells him to “be quiet.” I could pretend she just came up with that or own that in my desperation for quiet sometimes I’ve yelled at them to “be quiet.”
They get what we give. If we are picky eaters, they will be too. If we are closed-off or unaffectionate, why would they be anything different? If we don’t face our problems, how will they learn to? If they see us place blame for our own lives on everyone else they will never learn to hold themselves accountable either. When we act petty, they act petty. Sponges, remember? You can’t wipe up vinegar and expect to wring out honey.
There’s no secret where my daughter gets her sass and I don’t think it is a bad thing because sass isn’t the problem it is how to use it that could be. I can’t expect to give her a knife and hope she’ll know how to use it; I’ve got to show her. Even William Wallace had to learn to use his sword, right? So if sass is my sword, I’m not only responsible for who gets hold of it but I’m also responsible for teaching them how to use it appropriately, lest I want a bloody mess on my hands.
Listen, your kids are going to learn a lot of good from you – more good than bad. Yes my daughter yells at the brother to be quiet but she also holds his cheeks and gives him a firing squad of little, quick kisses and defends him when someone else has taken a toy from him or is sitting in “his chair.” She has amazing manners and is funny – really funny -and I’d like to think she learned that from me too. We all make mistakes in our frustrations as a parent. It would be easier if kids understood the world and didn’t need any guidance, then, we could all go on being the people we are and never have to face that there might be things about us that need some tweaking.
Lately, I’ve been trying to face those tweaks. In some cases that means holding my tongue; other times it means being honest instead of holding my tongue and being mad at the wrong people later. It can be hard but put the mirror up and face yourself and maybe the truth won’t be as hard to face as you think. You are the hardest, most important person to face but taking a close look can change everything.
Like Father Like Son – TMAB2003