Catch me in a moment of contemplation and you’ll witness the same gesture.
The fact that I birthed a mini me is no secret. In fact, for most of his life he’s actually been referred to as “mini” by friends of mine. From the getgo, this kid has been a spitting image of his mama and has prompted many an exclamation of “oh my goodness, y’all are twins!.” The novelty has actually worn off for me. And, as he gets older, he starts looking less and less like my little twinie. This fact will likely serve him well in middle school.
What I have noticed recently is how much of who I am – as a person – is being mirrored back to me by him. My mannerisms. My gestures. My sense of humor. My cautiousness. My preference for books over people. So much of what makes me who I am is being reflected back by my son. While this makes for more than a few adorable anecdotes (my personal favorite being when he responded to the offer of a bath with “not diggin’ it, mama”), it’s recently prompted some self reflection.
Like every other mother out there, the vast majority of my mental activity is focused around him. Is he meeting his milestones? Was that rash there yesterday? Will today be the day that his food refusal results in starvation? Should he go to preschool this year or next? Will kids make fun of little gremlin teeth?
I know that kid like the back of my hand and obsess about everything from what he eats, to how many numbers he can properly recognize to whether he will ever master algebra (something I’ve yet to accomplish). Who he is, who he is becoming and who he will end up being occupy an awful lot of brain space. Pretty par for the course as a parent, as I understand it.
What I haven’t given nearly as much brain space to is who I am. Who does he see when he wakes up? Who does he hear when its three in the morning and I answer the middle of the night calls for Mama? Who does he see when I think he’s not looking? And, how is this shaping him?
Two and a half is a challenge in many ways. Between the whining, the sassy comebacks and the sudden need to assert himself in all matters, toddlerhood has given me a run for my money (as if I get paid for this shiz) and has resulted in many an exasperated exclamation of “for the love of god, Mateo.” It’s also been mind blowing to watch. He’s coming into his own. He’s turning into a little human with cognitive thought processes, very clear likes and dislikes, a response to everything (usually a sassy one) and a wild streak that will serve him well as an adult but will ensure I never sleep during his teen years. These days I’m literally watching him become a person. Every day new aspects of his personality emerge. Some are adorable. Some I could do without. But all of it is fascinating and I’m often left in awe of the tiny little dude who races around my house making poop sounds (all day, every day).
I’ve also been caught off guard on more than half a dozen occasions recently by a sudden and very clear demonstration that he’s paying attention. He sees me. He hears me. He hears what I don’t say. He’s taking it all in and mulling it over as he navigates his days.
What is it that I want him to see and am I that person?
Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Like everyone else, I’m flawed and wonderful and snarky and selfless. I have days when I am nowhere near the mom I want to be. Days when I have failed at being a decent friend. Days when I go to bed thinking “for the love of god, Lizi.” And vow to up my game the next day. But, overall, am I modeling what I want for him?
Am I showing him what kindness looks like – both in how I treat others and how I let others treat me?
Am I handing him delicious lemonade when life throws me lemons? Or, am I sulking over things that don’t go my way and wallowing in the land of “it’s not fair?”
Am I showing him what a strong woman looks like? Am I serving as a living, breathing example of the truth that women are powerful beings who deserve respect?
Am I turning the other cheek metaphorically when he comes at me with toddler hostility and rage? Am I showing him how to respond to those who hurt his feelings, put him down, try to infringe on his rights?
Am I the face of tolerance and love for others? Does he hear me make disparaging comments about people? Or, does he witness unconditional acceptance for those around us?
What am I saying to my friends on the phone when he’s around? Is he hearing optimism or a sense of victimhood?
What’s my general mood? Is life a vale of tears or is each day greeted with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm? Obviously, no one actually wakes up and radiates sunshine and happiness all day, every day. Let’s be real. But, overall, does he see a woman who is enthused about the life she gets to live? Or, does he see the frustration, worry, exhaustion and stress that sometimes plagues me?
I don’t claim to have the answers to all of these questions. And, in some cases, I know the answer and it doesn’t thrill me. What matters, however, is the realization that my little Mini is picking up what I’m putting down and it’s my job to make sure he’s picking up gems instead of glass. Bring on the sunshine and optimism!