The other day I was sitting at the edge of the swimming pool, just looking and observing my daughter as she splashed and kicked around in the water and followed her instructor’s directions. I noticed how now she is starting to understand most verbal instructions and has developed enough dexterity to be able to replicate others’ movements – things that I had not noticed she was able to do about a year ago.
Of late I found myself doing that a lot – marvelling and at the same time surprised by my daughter’s progression, and her ability and eagerness to learn and absorb all things new to her.
What a wonderful age.
At this age there is a lot of excitement; for all things new to her young mind which our old minds have taken for granted for so long. Blow bubbles, and she will squeal. Pick her some flowers, and she will treasure for days. Sing a song, and she will sing and jump along. Show her a see-through Lego block, and she will pretend that it’s gold and keep it by her side as she sleeps. Tell her a made-up story, and she will sit on the bedside with delight and conjure up images of fairies and fireflies in her head.
At this age there is so much curiosity but yet so little judgement for people around her. There is no discrimination from where and whom she learns. She does not notice the differences in people’s skin nor eye colours; she does not notice whether you are wearing Prada shoes or a plain t-shirt; she does not question if a person does not possess all the physical characteristics that she does. There are things she can learn from everyone.
Her mind is like a sponge – which is incredibly exciting for me to watch, but also makes me nervous at the same time. You are starting to see what you consider as your own good and also bad characteristics reflected through her – your positivity and your negativity, your generosity but also your selfishness, your (weird) sense of humour, your temperament, your superficiality, the way you want others to see you, down to your careless eating habits – all being mirrored through the thoughts, words and actions of your child.
Blurt a foul word, and you hear that echoing through the little one’s mouth almost instantaneously. Tell her that she is not to speak to you loudly, and you see that being repeated as instructions to her father and her little brother some days later. Let her know when you are angry, and she takes it as an acceptable emotion to be portrayed back to you and others. Where does it start and where does it stop? How can you be angry at or disappointed in her actions when you realise that you are one of the biggest influence in her life and major source of her learnings?
I am starting to feel the paradigm of parenting (and my being a mother to my daughter) shifting. There is so much you can teach her but you realise it is so important that you pick the right methods, lessons, messages and timing. It also causes you to constantly re-think and question about your own behaviours and choices you make as an adult. Do you want her to see you losing your temper, or would you rather her see you handling situations calmly? Do you really want her to see you reaching out for that chocolate bar every time you are stressed? Do you want her seeing you speak loudly to her dad when you disagree on a matter? And it may only be actions and words for now, but as she gets older she will also look to you to form her thinking on bigger issues like social ideals, acceptances, norms and boundaries, self-image and self-worth. Even from a young age, can you afford for her to see your insecurities, your self-doubt, the days when you feel that nothing matters?
Nothing has made question myself as much as parenting has. But it is ok; in fact I think it’s a good thing. It feels like I have been given me another opportunity to look hard at myself and question whether I am the best person I can be for my child to learn from. It begs me to ask the question that in twenty years time, regardless of who my princess grows up to be, can I truly allow myself to say that I have done all that I could for her and let her be the best she can be?