When Daphne was about 6 months old and just starting to learn the signs I was wondering if I should be teaching her 'please' and 'thank you' in addition to our basic repertoire. The internal conversation I had with myself when trying to make this decision was as follows:
"Teaching her these words will help her be polite. I need to teach her to be polite."
"Hmm. How shall I teach her these?"
"I sign milk, I give her milk, she learns the sign for milk. Easy."
"But 'please' and 'thank you' are so abstract! How will she understand!"
"I need to figure this out! Or she won't be polite and people will judge me!"
"This is too hard. I am not equipped to raise children."
"Here Daph, have your milk. Sorry I can't help you to become a better person."
Much to my surprise after such a great parenting fail, now she's 4 years old and one of the quickest I know to say 'thank you.' She thanks everyone...servers at restaurants, cashiers at the grocery store, her doctors, the mail man.
Of course I know "monkey see, monkey do." I've heard it all my life. But it is another thing entirely to watch it happen right before my eyes. The reason Daphne says 'please' and 'thank you' so freely is not because we sat her down and told her how important it was to say those words, but because David and I say 'please' and 'thank you' as naturally as we breathe and she's just copying what she sees.
(Because, you know, David and I are perfectly amazing people and why wouldn't she want to emulate us?)
Every night when I'm tucking her into bed we spend a few minutes chatting. I ask her how her day was and just listen as she talks. She tells me her stories and then she says, "how was your day, mama?"
When we get into the car after BSF I ask her what she learned in class. She tells me what her teacher talked about and then she asks, "what did you learn in your class, mama?"
I'm showing an interest in her life, and in the process she is learning to show an interest in mine.
When I set myself up for a year of focusing on being purposeful I had no idea how much that word would end up permeating throughout my entire life. Watching Daphne follow so closely in my footsteps is the perfect motivation to act on what I say and to be the type of person I want her to be.
What I'm really figuring out here is that children are great for far more than their sweet snuggles and kisses. They make you fatter, more tired, and steal every ounce of energy you have and multiply it a hundredfold in themselves. They give you a new appreciation for going to the grocery store all by yourself and help you realize that it is indeed possible to catch vomit in your hands while keeping your eyes closed from the terrible sight. And they are tiny little sponges, taking in everything you do and spewing out the good when you're the only one to see it and the bad when you're in the middle of Target.
Maybe, someday, we'll stop catching vomit and find them grown and amazing, not because we spent so much time telling them what they are supposed to do, but because we lived the way for them.
It seems we'll be all the better for it.
|helping, because we like to help people|
*DISCLAIMER: Daph might be a special case of being an excellent copy cat right now at 4 years old. This could change in a year or even a day. Christian, despite our most excellent efforts, might turn out to be a terror. You never know.