I went to have a haircut on Saturday, and I didn’t like it. The haircut itself was ok (well, at least my wife thinks so) but there’s something else that comes with the territory at a barber’s shop: the mirror. The dreaded mirror.
I can gladly get through most of life without having to look in the mirror too often. I usually get ready for work in the semi-darkness before the rest of the family stirs, so I manage to avoid the reflection in the full-length mirror attached to the front of my bedroom wardrobe. I’m not trying to confess some deep-seated insecurity here, but there’s something about mirrors which makes me a little uneasy. So having to effectively stare at myself while there’s a haircut going on up top for 10-15 minutes is akin to mild torture.
And then there’s my kids. As a parent, I don’t need any mirrors around to regularly catch an all-too-familiar reflection of myself. Even though it’s not always a bad thing, it’s inescapable. My children echo everything about me.
I’m sure some of it is because of biologically inherited characteristics, but I’m no genetics expert and as the years pass I see more and more of myself in how they speak, behave, spend their time, etc, etc …
It’s not just the vocabulary they use, it’s the tone of voice. My kids are an almost perfect echo of what I say and how I talk. Perhaps that’s something I should celebrate, because it demonstrates that I really enjoy talking with my children. They entertain, inspire and educate me in conversations every day. They also learn to copy me. Which is fine … most of the time.
I generally succeed in avoiding to swear within earshot, but that’s not the whole story. As well as the laughter and my poor quality impressions, they also pick up on the despairing tone, the frustration, even the anger. The echo that comes back at me is not always pleasant listening.
The latest trick that my children have learned is to copy some of my odd little mannerisms. The two current favourites are the glasses-off-tired-eyes-rub and the downward-face-wipe, which I know are both signs of weariness. Does this mean that I’m not at my alert best when with the kids, or just that time with them it totally exhausting? Probably a bit of both.
Either way, I need to watch how I act and react in their presence. One of my biggest weaknesses is road rage. I have no patience with careless/ungrateful/inconsiderate drivers. I regularly fail to hide this even with my kids in the car. Whatever my children are learning from seeing me like that, it’s not good.
This is the big one, and the scariest. Although other family members, friends and teachers all play their part in forming my children’s systems of values and beliefs, I know that it’s predominately down to us as parents. My attitude towards other people (see the road rage reference above!), my religions beliefs, my care (or lack of) for the planet, my use of time, my use of money, my positive/negative outlook on life.
It’s all already there. Every day, everything that I say/do/think is gradually seeping in to my children’s lives as they spend time with me, watch me, learn from me, listen to me, and mirror me.
Sometimes, it fills me with parental pride. At other times, the echo is too loud.
Coming next: I’m drafting a post about becoming middle-aged. But I want to know when you think that phase of life begins. If you had to put an age on it, when would it be? Please take part in my Facebook poll here. Thanks!