I haven't figured this out yet . . .
When I was six, I got caught for vandalizing school property with a red Hibiscus. Another kid had showed me that if you took the stem that shoots up from the center of the flower, and rubbed it on a white surface, you could draw pictures with it. There just had to be enough “juice” in the flower to do it.
I remember getting sent to the principal’s office and getting a long lecture about being a leader or a follower, and learning what the word “instigator” meant. I’d like to say that was my first and only trip to the principal’s office, but unfortunately by the time I left elementary school, the principal knew me by name. I also remember my punishment was to remove my artwork, after which, I became quite friendly with the custodial staff.
When you see your children grow up and start to exhibit personality traits, you begin to wonder if traits are inherited like their physical appearance, or learned through your daily actions. It’s difficult not to pin it on your actions because children do have a way of noticing our worst habits and emulating them, without us realizing we’re exhibiting those habits in the first place.
But after I saw my daughter shamelessly doing this, I’m convinced there are certain behaviors we just inherit from our parents.
Okay, okay, it’s erasable chalk and she’d been shown how to do that before. But, she did have a look of guilt and surprise when I caught her, I’m sure similar to the look on my face when the principal came round the corner of the school cafeteria twenty years ago and caught me drawing on the wall.
It’s difficult to remember sometimes that children are like sponges and that they’re always watching. The way I hold a cup, my interminable need to dry my hands on a towel, how loud I yell, it all gets observed and repeated back to me. Words, actions, moods, they all seemingly become amplified through our children.
I can only hope that nothing comes out of my mouth that sounds even remotely close to a curse word because a two year old’s pronunciation isn’t the greatest and can sometimes sound like they’re saying bad words. I once forgot my son’s lunch after we’d driven halfway to school and I yelled out loud, “dang it,” before grumbling how I’d have to return home after dropping him off to retrieve it.
Of course, he repeated it and it came out sounding like exactly the phrase I was hoping to avoid. And he didn’t just repeat it. It came out of his mouth in rapid-fire succession like bullets out of a machine gun. I then had to pray that he didn’t use it at school that day, lest his teacher thinks I’m cursing up a storm for him at home, impeding her efforts at teaching him proper behavior while at school.
Why can’t children emulate traits like manners, saying please and thank you, or tiptoeing around quietly when people are napping instead of yelling, “Wake up?” Well, they can emulate those traits, they just take so much longer.
I’m not a paranoid person, though my wife may disagree with that assertion, but my kids are making me paranoid. Instead of “big brother,” I have to worry about “little child.”
So if there are any new parents out there reading this, get ready. Because your kids are going to show you a side of yourself you may not have realized was there. And you may not like it.