It’s no secret that being a mom is a thankless profession, especially when your kids aren’t old enough to articulate their appreciation. Over the past 6 years, I’ve picked up on a subtle way they let me know that I’m doing a good job. I watch how they imitate me. Kids are nothing if not copycats. Sometimes it’s complementary, and other times it’s horrifying. I’ve often compared being a mom to starring in a reality show. You think you’ve handled yourself pretty well, until your kid airs the lost footage by re-enacting your latest meltdown. You know the footage I’m talking about, that special montage of ridiculous behavior they show at the Real Housewives Reunion. Luckily, my kids aren’t as cruel as the producers of that show (although, please don’t stop, Bravo!) and have a way of showing me the good stuff, too.
One of my favorite ways to check in on how well I’m raising my tiny humans is to watch them take care of their stuffed animals and dolls. They carry them around with them and make sure they have a blanket wherever they go. My girls are adamant that no one is left behind. The twins even went through a phase of always carrying two babies at a time. Their reality was that moms have two babies which helped ease my mind. One of my biggest worries was that my twins would feel like they didn’t get enough attention from me, but they obviously thought it was the norm. As I watch them mother their “babies,” I can’t help but pat myself on the back. I am the only example of mothering they know to imitate. From what I’ve witnessed of their techniques so far, I’m a comforting and inclusive mom who always knows what they need. And I feel like I can be proud of that.
Not only do they take care of their dolls, they also take turns being mom to each other during pretend play. This is the time that I usually get to witness how they view my meltdowns. And while it can be embarrassing to watch sometimes, it can also be gratifying. This is because a lot of their re-enactments involve them disciplining each other. And for whatever reason, the other two will listen in that moment. (So, you’re saying there’s a chance!) It shows me that they understand why I discipline and why I get so frustrated. They will also repeat things I say to them to diffuse fights and help them see how their actions affect others. “Would you want to be treated like that?” and “Differences are what make life interesting.” are some of their favorites. Now, if only they would cooperate in real time…
Another part of their pretend play that clues me into how well I’m doing as a mom is what activities they choose to imitate. They write stories “just like Mama.” My oldest loves to write books where the main character is scared about someone or something new, then decides to be brave and, ultimately, kind. This is a topic we discuss regularly, because raising kind and open-minded children is a priority for me. Her books let me know that I’m succeeding in shaping them into compassionate people. In addition to being a writer like me, they also spend a lot of time cooking for me and their dad. Cooking for young kids is my absolute least favorite thing about being a mom. There is something so defeating about spending time coming up a with a meal, buying food for a meal and then cooking a meal, only to have no one eat the meal. Yet, they love acting out this ritual as if it is the most fun thing ever. This shows me that regardless of how they react to my cooking, they consider it an act of love which makes it all worth doing.
So, I may not receive a review and pay raise at the end of each year to let me know I’m doing a good job. And my girls remind me daily that I act like a maniac when I’m frustrated. And, of course, no one is eating any dinner that I ever cook. BUT… All I have to do is watch my kids when they pretend to be me, and I know that I’m rocking this mom thing. So, the next time you’re doubting your mothering abilities, take a minute to really watch your children play. They’ll show you that you’re doing a great job…after they threaten to throw away all of their stuffed animals’ toys if they don’t stop “actin-a-fool.”