My six-year-old son and I were having morning snuggle time when we began to discuss our day. "Yah," he said. "I'm gonna wear these same shorts another day. I pretty much wear the same things over and over...like Dad." "Oh, ya?" I asked with a smile. I had noticed that he had taken to wearing the same plaid shorts and red long sleeve t-shirt with the gecko on it for the past couple days. However, I had chosen not to say anything as a) he was happy, he LOVES geckos, and we weren't going anywhere that he needed to be clean or 'presentable', b) that meant less laundry for me...so a win-win, and c) not to oust my husband on his fashion-sense, but he was right. My husband did wear the same clothes for a couple days before changing often just because of his sporadic evening work schedule and early mornings jumping in to help out around the house...plus athletic shorts and a cotton t-shirt are just plain comfortable. But I digress...
My son replied to my amused response with, "Yes. I pretty much look to Dad to know what to do. Like, he likes soccer...and I like soccer. He likes Star Wars...and I like Star Wars. I mean, I look to you, too...sometimes...to know what to do. But pretty much, I look to Dad." I smiled even bigger as I took in his words. I recalled how my husband made a comment on how awesome it will be when the boys are both silent reading fluently so that we could all lay around on couches and read our own books for the afternoon, but be together as a family. From that point on, my son refused to read aloud because, "Reading in your head is harder and I want to challenge myself." I remembered that every time the boys watched a televised sporting event, they would ask, "Who are you chanting for?" When my son learned who his dad favored, he always picked the same team. Also, when asked if he would like to take swim lessons like his younger brother, he said, "No. I'm going to teach myself to swim...just like Daddy!" Then he began to retell a story that his father had told him about how he didn't like swim lessons at first, but learned in an afternoon while hanging out with his friends and their parents.
I have thought a lot about my son's statement since that morning. "I look to you to know what to do." What a powerful and insightful statement from such a young boy! And what a sense of responsibility and honor to have that statement said about you! I am so blessed to know the man he chose to emulate is someone that I love beyond belief and feel is an amazing role model for him. He couldn't have picked a better person, really. However, if my children are looking to me to know what to do (even if only sometimes), what kind of example do I want to give them on how to live their lives? Because they are always watching. They are always picking up on the subtle cues about how the world works based on our view. From the time they are a new baby and stick out their tongue when you stick out yours at them, to a toddler who talks on her pretend phone or pats a baby doll to sleep, to a preschooler who says word-for-word to you what you have said to them or your partner...they are watching and learning from us.
So I now try to keep that statement in my mind as I go about my days with my children.
When I am waiting in a long line at a store...I look to you to know what to do.
When I am disappointed that something didn't go my way...I look to you to know what to do.
When I am running late and one of the kids cannot find his shoes...I look to you to know what to do. When I am learning something new and it isn't coming naturally...I look to you to know what to do.
When we lay down at night and talk about the our day before sleep...I look to you to know what to do.
It is these moments, these minor and major moments that set the tone for how our young children process their world. It won't be that way forever I hear... peers will become more important and influence their choices more than ol' mom or dad. However, in these formative years of laying the groundwork for their lives, I am striving to be someone that I want my son to imitate.
"It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself." ~Joyce Maynard
Amber Sparks is a family and children's yoga teacher, home-based child care provider, writer, and Mama to two homeschooling boys ages four and six. She believes children are her greatest teachers and blogs about her mothering journey, mindfulness, and creative endeavors at www.heartwanderings.blogspot.com.