It’s cool — and a little scary — how N looks up to me and G as role models. In fact, when I first sat down to write this, I didn’t realize the extent to which she models us until I began making a list of anecdotes to share. Turns out, it’s a long list, and it includes both good things to be proud of, as well as not-so-great things that we should probably work on.
Here’s one example: today, when N saw me typing on my laptop, she got out her Elmo “computer.” (It’s not a real computer, but it’s cute — Elmo’s eyes dart back and forth and his voice makes “beep-bop-boop” computing noises.) She clicked her fingers across the keys several times, then announced, “We’re busy girls. When Daddy comes home, we won’t have time to play with him.” (Not sure whether this falls into the “good” modeling category or the bad — maybe a little of both.)
Later, N put on her gardening gloves, got out some open seed packets, and started dumping the seeds into a nearby potted plant. I told her she should wait until Daddy got home (as he’s the “green thumb” in the family, in charge of all seeds, soil, plants, etc. in the house). “But Daddy teached me already,” she replied. “See, Mama, you put the seeds in the soil, then pat, pat them down.” I couldn’t argue with that — she seems to be blooming into a little gardener herself, just like her dad.
She also loves to cook and bake with me in the kitchen. She’ll get out “her” mixing bowl (I bought her a brightly-colored plastic one because she was always stealing mine for her concoctions) and pour in anything that I’ll give her for her “recipe” — cereal, apple juice, colored sugar, etc. And of course we have to try it and say it tastes delicious! Yum!
I even believe that her love of princes and princesses — and her dreamy-eyed pronouncements that she’s going to marry her six-year-old cousin because he’s her “beloved” — is closely tied to her watching her mommy and daddy express affection for each other.
And ever since she learned that I have a baby in my belly, she has insisted that she has a baby in her belly too. Frequently her baby is hungry between meals and wants fruit snacks or Goldfish.
Then there are ways that she models us which are not as flattering. For example, she always wants to eat meals in front of the TV because…well, that’s what we do. Most of the time we’re watching one of her shows or the news — which actually does give us an opportunity to talk (contrary to the opinions of “experts” who say that families who eat dinner in front of the TV barely know each other’s names). N asks lots of questions about what she sees and we laugh together at funny scenes. Still, I realized this wasn’t a great habit we’ve slipped into when I found myself threatening the dining room table as punishment if she didn’t eat her vegetables.
And inevitably, all parents lose their tempers — sometimes in a totally rational, adult manner and sometimes not. I have certainly had my share of unreasonably angry moments that I’m not proud of. In one particular instance which is embarrassing to relate, I yelled, “Damn it!” Luckily N didn’t quite catch the entire phrase, but sometimes when she gets extremely upset she’ll exclaim, “Damage!” with a furrowed brow, hands on her hips. Part of me tries not to laugh at how darn cute she looks — while another part of me winces, knowing that it came straight from me.
I just keep trying to remind myself that parents aren’t perfect, so we can never be perfect role models. We just have to set a good example for dealing with our imperfections.
One of N’s favorite bedtime “rules” is the one we call “#3”: stay calm. When I get too upset (something I’m really trying to work on), N reminds me, “Mama! You’re not following #3!” Many times, I listen to her and try a calmer approach. I appreciate her candor and feel sure that I can look forward to many years of feedback on how I’m doing as a “role model!”