Having a child is an invitation to become a better you.
I recently saw a meme that said, “Things we model for our kids, whether we realize it or not…” and it listed: relationships with technology, how we deal with frustration, how we solve problems, how we take care of ourselves, how we apologize and repair, how we ask for help, how we handle mistakes, how we navigate conflicts, how we approach differences, how we care for animals, how we care for our environment, and how we listen. This really resonated with me and made me reflect on my constant job as a role model…
As our daughter moved into her first year, she began to imitate us as all children do. And like for most parents, it has been a source of endless delight for us.
One day, Claire got ahold of a Q-tip and stuck it in her ear. I realized that I probably shouldn’t clean my ears in front of her. I know it’s not a good thing to do anyway, and yet I still do it. But I didn’t want to model my bad behavior for her.
It’s one thing, though, to not do something (or do it out of sight), but another entirely to convey that some things are okay for us but not for her. We soon had to draw a boundary around what was not a “baby thing.” The oven knobs, for example, are not “baby things,” and neither are the matches. Ladders are not for babies, nor are medicine jars, despite her seeing us using them.
Then there are the words we use. Crispin told me something recently and I responded with “Dang!”
“Dang!” said baby Claire. “Dang! Dang!” She smiled gleefully as the word rolled around in her mouth. I was happy that it wasn’t worse, but it was a good reminder to have a little more awareness of my language.
In truth, I want to have more awareness of all my actions. When she is soaking in my every movement and word like a sponge, I want all of the input to be a good model for her. I don’t want to have to correct her for doing something that she saw me do, or saying something she heard me say. I don’t want to be that hypocrite.
Every New Year, we make resolutions, trying to be better people in the year ahead. But resolutions often fail because we lack accountability. With a child, the accountability is right in front of us. They mirror our actions. We get instantaneous feedback.
Some people might find this to be annoying or an unwelcome burden. I find it to be a challenge to be a better person. I want to model gentle behavior and kind words. I want my child to learn respect, not because she hears about it, but because she sees it in me. Every day she invites me to be better—not just for me, but for her. And every day, I’m going to accept that invitation.