It’s a startling thing to see this whole parenting thing – specifically, your whole parenting thing – from the perspective of the kids you’re parenting. Kids are sponges, I know, but it turns out, their innate talent for picking up on your curse word slip (whoops) is the least of it.
Our oldest son is eight, and our oldest daughter is six. And we are dealing with all kinds of attitude these days. I’m hip to the testing boundaries thing (haha, not really. Can you believe it starts so young?), but I wasn’t expecting this.
Turns out, it’s incredibly patronizing when someone slows down his speech and articulates every word, eyes wide and head nodding along. I was pretty much speechless the first time my son threw that my way, obnoxiously explaining that actually, mom, he’d already checked his backpack and his homework folder was still missing.
The difference, obviously, between me explaining things slowly and clearly and him using the same speech pattern and body language, is timing.
When I do it – when I close my eyes and breathe, and then carefully remind someone for the bazillionth time that his homework folder is on the kitchen table RIGHT WHERE HE LEFT IT – I’m trying to keep my *@!& together.
When he does it, it’s freaking rude. And disrespectful.
If that’s how it feels to be on the other end, isn’t it equally rude and disrespectful when I’m the one doing it? Why do I think it’s okay to talk to him like that just because I’m the adult?
I told you this was startling.
I’m from the modeling-good-behavior side of parenting. I think it’s important to set a positive example, and I never want to catch myself living the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do kind of lifestyle. I like to think that I’m respectful of my children, even when I’m firm. But seeing myself reflected in my children is giving me pause.
From my six year old, it’s a little different. When she plants her fists on those little hips and bobs her head around as she brazenly talks back, well, I don’t blame myself.
I blame those freaking tween shows.
It’s when she says, “Mom, how many times do I have to tell you? Once should be enough” in an irritated huff that I have instant déjà vu. And not in a good way.
The sarcasm from my four year old is even worse. It’s funny in an awful way, a frowning, pint-sized little boy thanking me soooo much for helping with his puzzle.
I mean, he has no idea how sarcasm works because I’m not only helping him with this stupid puzzle, I’m basically doing it for him. But still. Guess where he learned that fun form of irony?
It’s a humbling spot to find yourself – the target of your own mannerisms and turns of phrase, repackaged in these little people.
It makes me think. It makes me blind with rage, sometimes, but it also makes me think. And that’s probably a good thing.
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