Imitation is the most natural way for children to learn. Ever since they come to this world, their main activity is to observe us and store in their memory every action, every word. The fact they learn a language (or more than one simultaneously) just by imitation says a lot. “All we do or say can be used against us”, told me a friend years ago while talking about children. At that time I did not give it too much importance, I had no kids, but now I totally relate.
Our children are mostly a replica of us because we are their guide, their main teachers, the people they trust the most. If we want them to “behave well”, “eat healthy”, “use proper language” etc., we have to be first of all an example. We have to walk the talk!
We do know all this, don’t we? Do we always do it? Of course not and, I don’t know you, but I sometimes get mad at myself because I realize that I am not being the best example when I raise my voice, I lack patience, I do not pay enough attention etc. There was a time when I used to punish myself for not being ‘perfect’ and the result was even worse. Now I forgive myself and explain my feelings to my daughter. She is only 6 but somehow she understands I cannot be perfect, she forgives me and forgets right away. If I did not explain, would she be able to forget the conflictive moment right away? She would probably store it somewhere in her emotional memory as something she cannot relate.
One of the pillars of this society is, among others, haste. “I don’t have time” is a reply we give and hear so often these days. This is not a sustainable society because it requires us to be in everything, taking care of never ending tasks, most of which have no use when it comes to happiness. We must work, take care of the family, of our home, handle paperwork, remember a thousand things everyday. When it’s time to be with our children we are not always capable to be really present and we transfer our stress to them without even realizing it. Our children only want to spend time with us, to their eyes we are the best learning field for life, they think what we do is right and they simply repeat it. Shouldn’t we then try to remember the child we were or wanted to be?
After almost 7 years of motherhood, I came to the conclusion that I can only do my best to be a good example, be a better person through (and thanks to) my daughter, ask her to forgive me when I loose my patience, explain her things and remember that her eyes see a different world. I learned to be more tolerant and emphatic first of all with myself, I learned perfection is impossible and boring. I learned that despite everything I am the best mother for my daughter and that being honest and respectful to myself is the best lesson for her. She will imitate that, won’t she?