Yesterday when I fetched the kids from school, Hannah put her school bag over one shoulder only and said “ hoo(you) know who carries their bag like dis?” I was confused so I said “you?” She said “NO! I carry on two soldiers (shoulders).” So I said “Liam?” And she laughed hysterically and said “NO silly billy, Liam carries on two soldiers.” So I asked “who then??” And she yelled “DADDY!” I had a good laugh, she was right! My husband always carries his laptop backpack on one shoulder only. It was something I knew if I was ever asked the question, but not something I would ever pay attention to.
I was reminded once again on how observant children really are. How they study (and mimic) the people in their environments. The way they gather and process information blows me away. Who would have thought that a 3 year old would even CARE, let alone notice how her Daddy carries his backpack. But they do. They care about everything. They notice everything and it follows on that they learn from what they witness. Often I do things or take short cuts thinking that they won’t notice. But I am reprimanded ever so severely if I even try to get out of brushing teeth at night, or if I forget to put my seatbelt on.
If they notice things as mundane as how their Dad carries his backpack, you can rest assured that they are noticing the more important stuff. How we communicate with people from our spouses to the guy at the petrol pump. How I react in bad traffic, how I deal with call centre agents who phone me relentlessly. How I talk about people I am not particularly fond of. Hmmm… They notice how I pull my face when I’m annoyed or upset or hurt. They notice my body language. I mean small children could be detectives the way they are so adept at figuring things out. We underestimate them!
When the husband and I are having a heated discussion in front of the children, Liam will chide us by saying “guys, let’s not fight about this please.” We crack up laughing because this is EXACTLY what we say to them when they are on the verge of pulling each other’s eyes out. He may not understand what we are talking about, but he understands tone and facial expression and body language.
This morning Liam couldn’t find his sock which was tangled up in his bed linen. Hannah spotted it first and yelled “it’s right there, are you blind?!” I cringed a little with embarrassment, it didn’t sound as polite when said in that tone.. the same tone I use when I use that exact same phrase on them! Eish…
I am so mindful and concerned about what my children are exposed to out in the big bad world – the things they watch on TV, the friends they play date with, the food they eat, the potential pedo. phile, and the list of external worries goes on and on. Of course these things are important, we need to be constantly alert to these things, but I need to be careful not to neglect the small things that they pick up right at home from me. While I don’t want to mind every P and Q, I need to be aware of how small things are actually big things for kids. And even when I think they are so absorbed in whatever they are doing that they aren’t listening to me or watching me, clearly they ARE! My kids even understand when I speak Afrikaans to my husband. Granted my Afrikaans is horrible, but they pick up on the nuances of the conversation and they just KNOW. They DO!
I do so love when they notice the good stuff… “your hair is so pretty like that mom.” Or “I like that lipstick” every time I wear something other than my usual natural colour. Not even their father notices these things!
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.
Franklin P. Jones
Children are like wet cement, whatever falls on them makes an impression