I’ve always been a jeans kind of girl. Perhaps it’s because I tend to bound through life rather than tread lightly, or because with the kind of work I do I’m often darting around a playroom or sitting on a floor. My wardrobe is full of jeans- skinny fit, relaxed fit, faded, dark, white, blue, black, smart, casual- jeans are my second skin. I wear them almost every day and don’t even give it a thought. Well, that was until the other day.
Now my little Rachel has, almost since she could gesture, been insisting that she chooses her own outfits – at times much to my fashion sense’s horror (or what I have of it)!
Last week, she was prancing around the kitchen, singing at the top of her voice like she often does, when one of my staff members commented on how much she has been loving wearing jeans for the past few weeks. I glanced over to her and said, “Rache, you like wearing your jeans, my love?” She danced over to me, ran her hand down the length of my pants, looked up at me and replied, “Like you mommy, just like you.” At that moment my heart melted to absolute mush. Now I know it’s also part of a developmental phase for children to externally imitate their parents, but I couldn’t help reflect on a powerful aspect of this which I see every day, in my own home, and the lives of the children I work with.
Much deeper than the jeans, the hairstyles and the nail polish- lie our attributes- the people we truly are. The reality we may choose rather to ignore – our children become us. They take on our qualities, our traits. Children learn what they live, they become what they experience, they grow into what they see – both the appealing and the not-so-much. We cannot expect our children to be independent, secure and confident human beings who like themselves, if we are not happy with the people we are. We cannot expect our children to master control over their anger and anxiety when we are ill-tempered and fearful. We cannot expect them to treat others with respect when we constantly judge and condemn those around us. Our children absorb all our stress, all our frustrations, and it becomes a part of them; it runs through their veins.
It takes a brave parent to look in the emotional mirror and to assess what parts of ourselves we don’t like, what parts need to change, and then to determine to take action against those parts. If we don’t, it’s like gift wrapping all the qualities we wish we never had and leaving them under the Christmas tree for our unsuspecting children to embrace – and they will. They will become who we are.
I don’t mind if Rachel becomes a jeans girl, but it is my biggest responsibility as a parent to constantly assess myself and work on the parts of me which I don’t want ingrained in her little life, so that I don’t burden her and her brother with them.
Do the best thing a parent can do for their child. Be brave. Look in the mirror. Don’t pass on everything you see. Be the person you want your child to become – because whether warts or beauty spots – they will become you. The choice really is yours.