For anyone who's ever tried to sneak a snack or take a bathroom break, this will come as no surprise: Your kids, both big, small, and tiny, they're watching you. All the time. And listening too. Heaven help us. Don't believe me, watch their pretend games. How often have I seen my sons pretend to be cabinetmakers, or my daughters pretend to be cooking, and vice versa. Or less pleasant mimicking like... sitting on their behinds watching TV eating popcorn, repeating less than pleasant phrases, or whatnot.
It's not news that our kids are little sponges. We rely on that when we're trying to teach them new words, how to walk, and how to act. The tricky thing is that they're sponges even when we're not in teaching mode. That time you road raged. Yeah, they saw that. That time you only brushed your teeth for 2 seconds before walking out the door. Their eyes were glued to you. When you wore the same outfit for an entire week because you didn't want to do laundry. They noticed. They may have been grossed out. That book you were reading. They're going to check it out when you're not looking. When you turned on Dr. Phil and stared with rapt attention regardless of what was going on. They watched you. Then they watched him. When you complained about your friend/parent/spouse/in-law/stranger to a friend over coffee while you had that playdate. They stored up those words, that facial expression, and your feelings.
If you're like me, the very thought of this makes you want to run in terror, and go buy your kids some industrial quality earmuffs and blinders. Just a tip, that would be weird looking, and probably still wouldn't work. So, while I'm busy sheltering my kids from all the evils of the world, I'm sitting here pounding my head on the desk remembering that I can't shelter them from me. The truth is that I shouldn't have to shelter them from who I am. They're going to see the cracks in my Momhood if there's a different me for when I'm talking just to them and this other, strange woman I show the rest of the world. Or maybe like me you're nicer out in public than you are behind closed doors. You know what I mean. We all have that super sweet way of dealing with the usual insanity of toddlers when we're out. When we're home, they're right in time out, no nice voice, not much patience, and more than a few heavy sighs.
So what can I do with these thinking, feeling, loving little sponges? I can use them as inspiration to be a better person, when I think no one's looking and when everyone's looking. Because if you have kids, they're always watching, listening and learning. They're the same wherever they are, so maybe I can be too. Maybe I can learn to be a woman I'd be proud to call my friend all the time. I want to give my kids the best model I can so that they don't have to ever hear me say "do as I say, not as I do". Some day they're going to leave my house, and I don't have to just pray they'll be good, responsible people, I can teach them through my daily example.