As my children grow and master their language skills, I’m learning a lot about them. It’s possible that I’m learning even more about me.
For instance, our girls often repeat things that they hear us say, especially around the dinner table. And a lot of it is cute. My eldest has started praying for our meal, usually starting just after I do, thus bringing my prayer to a screeching halt so she can ask God for a few things. It’s adorable.
But she also yells at the dog a fair amount.
“Cole, go eat your food!” she says.
“Cole, get down!” she says.
“Cole, go lay down!” she says.
All the while, my youngest is just shouting the dog’s name.
“Cole! Cole! Cole!”
It must be a bit confusing for him, hearing his name called by one and getting yelled at by the other, all the while waiting not-so-patiently by their chairs for bits of food that will surely fall to the floor. After a few minutes, I get up and chase him to the basement or behind a gate, where he’ll whine until he is let out to clean up the crumbs.
But before I get up, as the girls are yelling at the dog, I realize that they learned this behavior from me. They yell at Cole because I yell at Cole. And I am reminded all over again that I am a parent, some kind of role model to these people who share half of my DNA. How they act and what they say will be heavily influenced by how I act and what I say.
I’m thankful that the worst thing they yell is for the dog to go eat his food, and I’ll be careful that they don’t learn anything worse from me. I’d rather see them co-opting my prayers than yelling and fighting any day.