When we welcome babies into the world, we look for all resemblances of ourselves. Eyes, nose, hair color, smile. These traits are born with them. Natural, permanent, beautiful traits to always remind us that they are ours. They came from us. When I was pregnant with my first son, a good friend of mine asked, “Isn’t it strange, you’re growing a penis?” I had never thought of it that way before…
But more than physical appearances, babies are entered into this world – into our worlds – where they (God help ‘em!) watch, listen, hear, absorb, everything in their new little world. Sometimes I catch myself talking/explaining things to A, my 4 ½ year old, that even a 14-year old couldn’t follow. After every time-out, I find myself blending scolding, rationale, and long-winded explanations that leave him saying, “Mommy, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you saying I can get up and go eat some fruit snacks?”
Part of me wonders if he truly can’t follow, but most of me knows that he absolutely can. At age two, he was as smart as a 4-year old – unbeknownst to me – but now I am onto him. And here’s why. We were recently in Big Bear, and as we were driving up the mountain, he said, “Mommy, this is the place with the long slide thing that’s made out of cement and you go down on these sled things and push the brakes so you don’t crash into the bottom.” It had been more than a year since our last trip to the mountains, and he remembered every single detail of the toboggan sled rides.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I took him to a place called My Kids Clubhouse, one of those indoor play centers that let kiddos run around like crazy for a couple of hours. There’s a pretend cash register there, and I was sitting in the little café area, watching my boys play while working on my laptop. A was pushing buttons, pretending to sell pretend food to his little brother, E. I heard him “calculating” totals, which was really adorable, and then I heard this…
“928-710-&#!%” (You didn’t think I would really include my whole phone number, did you!?)
Under his breath, he recited my entire cell phone number, something I have never taught him. He kept repeating it over and over as though he had been studying it for years, making sure he never forgot it. I was stunned.
“What did you just say?” I asked, and he shot his head to look at me with a grin that said, “you weren’t supposed to hear that.”
“What did you just say?” I asked again, watching a grin spread across his face that told me this was a game.
“Nothing,” he muttered through cute, pursed little lips.
“Just tell me!” I begged. “Tell me what you just said! Please!?”
He repeated my phone number in a silly four-year old voice, a bit embarrassed of his brilliance, and I said, “How do you know my cell phone number?!”
He grinned again. I could not believe he had memorized a 10-digit number that I had never told him, let alone encouraged him to memorize!
Kids are parrots, they are echoes and shadows and sponges containing external hard-drives with terabytes of memory storage.
When A was about two, he used to say “ah, s**t.”
“You want to sit?” we would ask him, hoping naively that nobody within earshot would realize he was actually cussing. Cute? Yes. A reminder that kids are parrots and sponges and shadows and echoes? Absolutely.
A sometimes scolds his little brother with the same voice, tone, mannerism, and delivery that I scold him with. He sounds exactly like me.
My boys have been obsessed with Katy Perry’s “Roar” for more than a month now, and the first few times it came on, A asked about some of the lyrics: “Dancing through the fire? Why would someone dance through fire? They would get burned. Why would they do that?” A lesson on figurative speech…probably too young.
But a lesson for me; kids are always listening. They are always watching. And taking mental notes. And repeating everything. For this very precious moment in life, we are their everything. So when A said my phone number out loud, it was yet another reminder of how much they are learning and taking in and processing every second of the day.
And how influential I am in all of that. Makes me proud and afraid, nervous and determined to say all the right things all of the time (which, of course, it not even possible) – so instead, it keeps me reminded of how easily influenced they really are, and how constantly I am surrounded by beautiful, shadowy-echoey, parrot-like creatures.
What’s the most surprising (or funny) thing your kiddo has ever repeated??