I’m realizing more and more just how important it is to be a good role model for my son. Not only in teaching him the right way to do and say things, but also by practicing what I preach. I could tell him all day long “Don’t feed the dog people food.” But if I do it, he’ll do it. I could tell him, “Don’t drink more than one soda a day.” But he’d just do it anyways if he saw me doing it. There are a million examples of this. The fact of the matter is, toddlers think in their heart of hearts that we are the ultimate doer of right, and negator of wrong. So if I do something, it must be okay.
Basically, I’m shaping his entire future right now. No pressure or anything…
With that in the back of my mind at all times, I’m noticing how much he watches what I do and imitates it. *Thank god I stopped swearing so much!* Now, at 16 months old, whenever he sees the broom out, he will take it and push it forward and back and sweep the kitchen for me. He will take his little vacuum and push it around the carpet in the living room while I’m vacuuming. He will take out, and replace dishes while I’m washing them. He (unfortunately) takes garbage and puts it in the recycling and vice-versa. He makes his bed in the morning by spreading his blanket out in the crib. He takes my hand shovel and pokes it around in the garden soil. He takes his little rake and pulls it around in the yard. I could go on for EVER with this list.
He even picks up after himself the way I clean up. On our back porch is a package of water bottles, he will often take the water bottles and prance around the house with it. When I tell him to put it back, he doesn’t just throw it on the other water bottles like most toddlers would do. He gently places it standing up in its original place in the package. He is completely zoned in on his task and is determined to do it right the first time.
While he does all of these things, he watches for my reaction. He tries so hard to do things right and he THRIVES on positive feedback. Normally when I see him doing these things, I smile to myself at how cute he is, and parade him around and tell him what a good boy he is for helping Mama.
He also loves to help take care of his sisters. He covers them with blankets (about three each is sufficient in his eyes), he gives them their nooks (making sure to face it the right way after a couple tries), he put hats on their heads (faces…) over winter, He brushes their teeth (pokes their faces) sometimes while he was brushing his, and he loves to help with feeding. He carries one of the girl’s bottles from the kitchen into the living room. He stands there patiently waiting until I get all set up. He just watches and waits for his cue. When I ask him for the bottle he eagerly hands it to me, and starts squealing and prancing around now that his task is done. He did good.
The other day though, he did something that just made my heart absolutely melt. I gave him both bottles to carry that day. When we got into the living room, I noticed Peanut had a dirty diaper so I took her to the changing table to change her quick. I noticed Buddy put down one bottle and walk off with the other. He eventually followed me into the girls room where I took Peanut to change her. When I finished I brought her back and set her up with a bottle and started looking for Bear’s bottle. I couldn’t find it anywhere I looked. I found Buddy and asked him, “Where’s the bottle Buddy?”. He immediately hopped up and started walking. He got to the end of the kitchen and turned around and looked at me. Like he was saying, “Hey, you comin’?” He got halfway down the hallway and looked over his shoulder again at me to make sure I was still coming. We arrived in the girl’s room and he walked over to the kitchen set. Reached up, opened the microwave door, and pulled out the missing bottle. He turned around and looked at me with such earnest eyes. It was like he was asking me, “Did I do good Mommy?”. *puppy dog eyes* He wanted to be praised so bad for this. I was at a loss for words. I just got a huge smile and got down on my knees and gave him a giant hug while laughing. “You did good baby.”
I reached out for the bottle and he handed it to me. *Oh!* The bottle was still cold from being in the fridge. I was so distracted that I forgot to warm this one up. Buddy noticed it was still cold and tried to warm it up for me. Now I was really at a loss for words. I know it sounds so simple, but you have to realize what he just did. Sometime between when the girls were born and now, he figured out that I feed the girls with the bottles, I warm them up before I feed them, and the microwave is what warms them. He watches me do that exact thing every single day multiple times each day. I warm up the bottles for the girls in the microwave, then I hand one to him and we go to feed them. Every day. I never realized he paid attention to what I did that closely.
When did he get so smart? Seriously, when?! I always knew he was smart, but I mean this is some pretty critical thinking. Maybe I’m over reacting, but I was so proud of him when I realized what he did! When you’re around a baby nearly every single day of their lives, it’s hard to imagine them growing up and acquiring new skills. You get so used to the day-to-day that you don’t realize just how big and how smart they’ve gotten. You don’t notice their new skills as quickly as someone who sees them only once a month. I always thought it’d be such a boring tedious task of teaching your child what everything was called, and how everything works. Come to find out I actually enjoy it! Not only that, but I don’t even have to teach him half of the things he knows. I only have to tell him something once, maybe twice and he just remembers. The rest, he just watches me and learns from my actions. He’s such a sponge, it’s just so amazing!
Along with being eager to learn, I’m so happy he’s trying so hard to do good things for my attention. Don’t get me wrong, he still has major meltdowns with the best of ’em. But he’s a really good kid in general. It makes me feel like I really am being a good role model for him. I feel like I just might be a successful parent after all. It’s so hard to lead by example when you don’t see big results come from it like you want. (especially when you’re used to taking shortcuts yourself) There are days that everything is going wrong and you want to pull your hair out it feels hopeless and frustrating. But then, when I see him looking at me with those eyes, asking me, “Is this good Mommy?” I remember what it’s all for. These daily activities together are little reminders for me. Practice what you preach… practice what you preach.