Parenting and bad habits

Our little helper.
Ella has been growing like crazy lately.  And recently, she's adopted this expressive "ugh" when she's frustrated.  At first, it was pretty funny.  But after a week or two, I started to question where she got it from.  After all, neither Tim or I let out some over-dramatic "UGH" every time we can't get a bottle open, so I was left wondering.

Then, I realized.  Oh hey, I'm pregnant.  And when I'm pregnant, I'm vocal.  And I'm usually oblivious to the occasional "ugh" when trying to bend over and pick up a dropped pen.  I'm so totally oblivious to it, that Tim has asked me if I'm okay when I'm just getting up from the couch.  What can I say?  Maybe some handle it much better than I, but when you've got extra weight on your bladder, lungs, and ribs sometimes letting out a sigh when trying to get up off the floor, to me, is simply inevitable.  

When I realized this,  I turned to Tim in the car and said, "Oh my God.  She got it from me!"  And that's when I started thinking about how parenting is truly no joke.  It's serious business.  Sure, I knew this already.  I'm well aware of the whole kids-pick-up-on-our-habits thing and if I'm sitting and grazing on sweets that my kid will ultimately have an uncontrollable sweet tooth.  I've made a conscious effort to be aware of my own habits and behavior around my daughter down to how I react when someone cuts me off on the road or opting for an apple instead of a cookie.  But none us are immune to the human thing. We all have quirks, habits we need to kick, and say things we immediately regret saying once they've left our mouths.  Our little ones pick up on those things.  And that's a little scary - to realize that our little bad habits and quirks can be so ingrained in us that we often don't even realize the potential effect our behavior is doing to someone else.  

Needless to say, this has taught me a few things:

Communication will eventually and ultimately be key.  I get that I'm not going to be the perfect parent.  It won't be due to a lack of trying, but let's all acknowledge now that the perfect parent doesn't exist and we'll be better off.  This is where communicating comes in.  As she gets older, I'll be able to break down a situation for her.  So if I'm having a day and a guy decides to cut me off on the road and I lose it, I'll have the opportunity to cool off, apologize, and explain to her how I should have reacted.

I'm a little less quick to judge.  When I was pregnant with Ella, Tim and I were out shopping picking up a few things in preparation for her arrival.  I was at Target in the infant clothing section which is super close to the toddler clothing.  A girl was perusing a rack of clothing with her dad when she dropped a piece of clothing a let out a bold "f***."  I was horrified.  Nothing is more jolting than that word coming from what couldn't have been a girl older than 7.  Of course the dad was quick to reprimand her, but I remember thinking almost immediately, she heard it from somewhere and it was probably home.  I don't say that word, I used to all the time and thought I was super cool.  Call me old mom now, but I think it immediately makes a person less attractive when it comes out of their mouth.  I do, however, let out the occasional cuss word when frustrated, and when Ella expressed one of her "ughs", I was immediately brought back to the baby clothing section in Target.  Sure, the Dad could have a complete foul mouth or she could have been in the car when he was a little too frustrated on the road -- something we're all guilty of.

We need to be constantly bettering ourselves.  There's no magic show or book or school we can give to our kids and expect them to turn into little kind, well-rounded souls.  It starts with us and that means work on our part not only to insure we're providing our kids with quality entertainment and an environment, but also to be regularly looking inward at ourselves and improving what we as individuals need to work on.

There's a good side to this.  Just as our kiddos pick up on our reaction to stubbing our toe, they also pick up on our good habits.  When we sit down to eat, we sit down as a family and say grace.  Now when we sit down with our food, Ella is usually the first to fold her hands and wait for prayers to start.  She puts her bowl in the sink when she's finished.  She puts her toys away before she takes new ones out.  She helps unload the dishwasher.  If we forget to close a drawer all the way, she'll go behind us and shut it.

Parenting is hard work not because we're pulled and strained and tested on a daily basis, but because we have to be simultaneously challenging ourselves to be who we want our kids to be while we're teaching them.  And that's no easy task...especially when we're being pulled and strained and tested. Let me take a step back in saying parenting is a gift and a joy I've been blessed to encounter.  The last thing I want is to make this post sound like parenting is the biggest drag known to man.  What I do want to pose is we have to speak 10 times louder with our actions than with any word that exits our mouth.  And we all should be a little more empathetic and patient with parents.  It's takes constant, undying effort every day to wake up and choose to be a good example.


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