Learning through Imitation – What kind of model am I?

June 14, 2015

Isn’t this just the loveliest photo? I can look at it for ages. It says so much. The joy expressed, the inspiration given, the aspiration, the moments that happen between what our children see and what they do.

dancing girl

Children learn primarily through imitation. We are their models and guides. For better or for worse. Whatever we have not yet worked through and integrated will leak through. Which can be rather alarming to realize! Or as Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.” Simultaneously it also provides incredible motivation to get to work! To shine as our most beautiful selves, to model for them what living Life from our essential self looks like. To grow up and wake up so that we can help them do the same.

One question I have asked myself over and over in becoming and being a mama is this: “What would I do differently and what would I do the same, if I really take to heart that everything I do may be copied by my child?”

The question itself gets right to the essence of what I wish to be and pass on – in tone, in gesture, action, in choices I make, reasons why I do or don’t do something, including the ongoing communication with her that I too am practicing becoming human, that I too will keep stumbling and learning and holding myself accountable to what’s possible, with compassion and humor. As well as celebrate the shared leaps and bounds, as in the beautiful photo.

Our children’s feedback is often immediate and relentless, in all directions. Sometimes we find ourselves distressed by the mirror they provide. It’s hard to see, heartbreaking even, and yet, can also motivate us deeply to change. Other times we are heartened and encouraged as we hear them emulate the healthy, creative, kind and considerate ways we have shown them.

May the dance continue, swirling onward and upward, together and apart.

How about we share below one thing we are passing on that we are pleased about, and one that we wish to change?

I’ll start:

It warms me so when I hear A’s friendly, confident and considerate tone of voice as she speaks to others, and as much as so much of that is her very own, I can hear the inflections and tonality coming from hearing me. I remember the first time I heard that, she was about 4 and had picked up the phone and was speaking in the same kind of way as I do, that I was not even aware of, but when I heard it, there it was. And i just about melted with the unexpected mirror given.

It’s disconcerting to notice when my drive for “perfection” leaks over to her. She fends it off well a lot of the time, but I cringe when i see it trip her up… “That’s not good enough. I’ll never be able to do this!” And most especially when it hinders her from even trying something. Ouch. Again, some of this is hers, I know. “But goodness gracious, Miriam”, I say to myself, “Let it go”. And so I keep practicing, and telling her that it is one of my tendencies that I am not proud of. And she catches me: “Mum, don’ be such a perfectionist!” And so the dance continues, and I also get to learn from and imitate her.

And now you? Something you delight in seeing your child copy, and something you wish to change — holding yourself in kindness, compassion, and with a willingness to see and grow and become evermore You.

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