Every parent of a preschooler has experienced it. We hear something coming from our child’s mouth that sounds eerily familiar. From the words to the inflection and facial expression, it’s us to a tee. It can be embarrassing, hilarious, or a sobering mirror.
Sometimes, it reassures us that our kids are getting messages of love. Once, my daughter was watching me re-write the grocery list in order by aisle. (Does everyone do this or did I just inadvertently reveal that I am a freak? Oh well, either way.) She simply observed for a moment, and then said quietly, “Mommy, that’s beautiful” in the sweetest, proudest-sounding voice I have ever heard. That’s me. I do exactly that. I watch them draw, and then I tell them their art is beautiful. Yes, I know that I should be using non-judgment phrases like “I like how you made that wiggly line” or whatever, but I don’t. I tell them their art is beautiful, in exactly the tone of voice I heard coming from my daughter’s mouth. When my kids say, “I love you so so so SO much forever,” I know that they are hearing me when I say it to them. And when I hear one tell the other, “I’m so proud of you,” my heart just about explodes.
Too often, I hear my voice mirrored back saying things I shouldn’t. The other day, irritated and impatient in the grocery store parking lotI don’t remember whyI muttered, “Jesus” under my breath. Both kids looked at me and started chanting “Jesus Christ” over and over. Um, that’s bad. That’s very bad. Hilarious, but bad. I guess it could be worse. It could be the “for f**k’s sake” that emerged from my son one day and then never again. Blame for that one is squarely on Daddy’s shoulders. But the old JC name-in-vain thing is all me. My hubby and I have tried very hard to tame our potty mouths, which is apparently working to some degree, because the word “friggin’” has become very popular among preschoolers in our house. I honestly think that one is funny as hell, but their teachers won’t, so I guess we nip that in the bud too. If anyone has an f-bomb substitute that would be socially acceptable coming from the mouth of a four-year-old, please let me know. I desperately need one.
My favorite (yes even better than “for f**k’s sake”) is hearing them make rules, lay down discipline, or be firm parents. Every time my son receives a time out, he informs me in perfect firm-but-calm parent voice that “we never, EVER give time-outs in this house!” Once, at dinnertime, he gave me a choice: He could play Mario Kart Wii now and eat later, or I could bring his plate to the couch so he could take bites between races. When I chose option C, turn off the Wii and come to the table, he informed me calmly and politely, “That’s not a choice, Mommy. I gave you two choices. You have to pick one.” My daughter’s rendition of the steps of “1-2-3 Magic” is much better than my husband’s. When he has trouble following the steps, I like to remind him that it’s so simple a three-year-old can do it.
And then some words are just plain funny coming from the mouth of a four-year-old, especially when they are used correctly: “Actually,” “otherwise,” “reboot,” “nunchuck.” Nothing is more silly and at the same time sobering than hearing your kid tell you, “I’ll come to dinner in a minute. I just have to check one more e-mail.”
The “one more e-mail” moments make me cringe. The “I’m so proud of you” moments make me cry in a good way. Kids are a mirror. They show both the good and the bad. But unlike a physical mirror, the stuff you don’t like hearing back is stuff that you can change if you want to. And that makes me so grateful. So I stopped writing this blog entry in the middle when my son asked me to play Hullabaloo with him. I put it off again to snuggle with my daughter. Interrupting my flow makes it harder to write coherently. My blog may suffer for it. But better my blog than my kids. Any day.