It was a night like basically every other night, the busyness of our routines – the evening rush of dinner, cleanup, bath time, bed – but in the midst of that everyday madness, I had to stop to think.
In the middle of my daughter’s bath, after I had soaped up her face and was getting ready to rinse it, my daughter reached her hands into the water, cupped them, and splashed water on her face. I had never seen her do this before, and immediately thought that her dad must have showed her how to rinse her face the last time he gave her a bath. “Did Daddy teach you that?” I asked her.
“No, Mommy. You did.”
Here’s the thing. I never consciously taught my daughter to rinse her face. Which meant, of course, that I taught her by just doing it myself daily while she was watching.
As simple of a thing as it was, I could not help but pause and think …
What else is she learning from me just by watching?
I’m going to be honest. This is a terrifying thought to me. I can talk to her all day long about how to be a good friend and how to be respectful to others or why we shouldn’t throw tantrums …
… but did she see me upset that someone had finished off all the ice cream before I had a chance to eat any? (real talk, y’all!)
… did she see me lose my temper over something that was actually really minor?
… did she hear me raise my voice when I should’ve stayed calm?
Sometimes I worry that these are all the things that I’m unconsciously teaching her.
Of course, I try to model thankfulness and kindness and being a good human, but the fact of the matter is that I am a human being who falls short – a LOT. I know that my mistakes are undoubtedly seen by my children’s ever-watchful eyes.
Because I know they see my mistakes, I must make sure they also see an acknowledgment of my errors. If they observe me mess up, they must also see me own up to it. I let them hear me say, “I’m sorry” or “I shouldn’t have said that” or “Mommy shouldn’t have let that bother her.”
More importantly, I make sure they hear me say with my “Please forgive me” when I do mess up. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that they’re not perfect, either. We all will fail and mess up from time to time. And if my children are learning by watching me, I know without question that they’ll learn how to make mistakes. It’s my job to make sure that they also learn how to apologize, how to get back up, and try again to make things right.