There are many types of mirrors in this world: funhouse mirrors that make your butt look humongous; little compact mirrors you carry in your pocket to sneak a peek in to ensure you don’t have spinach in your teeth after lunch; or those make-up mirrors that magnify every pore and wrinkle and make you feel ancient. I have a love-hate relationship with mirrors. When I see one, I am drawn to look, and although I can honestly say I like a lot of what I see, I often obsess about a few small details, like my crooked eyebrows or the new wrinkle I have on one side of my face from a lifetime of sarcastic, crooked smiles. My droopy tummy from 2 pregnancies and all the scars on my legs from a childhood riddled with roller skating accidents. However, in all my years of mirror gazing and obsessing, I never found a mirror so convicting, so accurate, as the living mirror.
“A living mirror…huh?” you ask. It is this little living, breathing mirror I have in my home ever since my kids learned to talk. I have two, actually, and they follow me around and show me some pretty interesting stuff sometimes, and usually at the most inconvenient-but-perfect times. Like the time Aiden yelled “Stupid drivers!” while we were driving down the road, which made me promptly reign in my impulse to yell out “IDIOT!” at the guy who cut me off on the freeway.
My mirrors have shown me both positive and negative things. I’ve seen my marriage with Brad played out by Aiden, and although the picture wasn’t perfect, it made me realize that my kids do witness a pretty loving marriage. On one of our “date nights” Aiden insisted that we pretend to be husband and wife and required that we call each other “honey” or “dear” all evening. He would gently prompt me when I forgot and called him Aiden, and he held my hand and asked me about my day and even made up stories about his own day at “work” to share with me.
Aubrey has taught me the exact face I must make when I am telling her to do something (for the second or third time) or warning her of bad behavior. Just the other day, she walked over to me with her empty juice cup while I was on the couch, handed me the cup, and with a very serious face, eyebrows pinched, leaned her head forward, looked down her nose right into my eyes and said, “Juice” in her most serious and stern voice. I laughed hysterically and realized that, like me, she was attempting some sort of Jedi-mind-trick to get the behavior she wanted.
And then there are the times that Aiden takes his sister by the hand and mirrors the patient way I try to teach Aubrey things. He will sit down beside her, take her hand, and in the sweetest voice, say “Look, Aubrey! A bird. Can you say BIRD? Good job! You’re so smart, Aubrey! I’m so proud of you!” Those moments fill me with hope that maybe, just maybe, I am not completely screwing up this parenting gig.
Just this morning, we were walking out the door on our way to school. Aiden ran to the van first, Aubrey was toddling after, and in her bossiest, most authoritative voice she points at her brother and yells “Hurry buckle! Hurry buckle!” OUCH! You see, instantly I realized how I had yelled those exact same words to my son about 500 times in the past few months, as it seems that as a temporarily-single parent, I am ALWAYS rushing around and Aiden is ALWAYS dawdling. The instant I heard those words, I knew where my daughter had learned them, and I knew that I was getting a major wake-up call that it is time to slow down, spend more time prepping and less time rushing.
That is the great thing about the living mirror. If we are really paying attention, it gives us the opportunity to see the true legacy we are leaving our children. Not the stuff we think we are teaching with our words, but the lessons they are actually learning from our actions. I realized this morning I have been so focused on getting everything done—the swim lessons and Cub Scouts and homemade lunches with his favorite foods and homework and love notes in the lunch box and combing hair and permission slips and baking his favorite cookies for an after-school snack—that I’ve lost sight of the reason for doing all of this: to make him happy, to raise a child who knows he is loved and treasured. Doesn’t do a lot of good to do all of these THINGS for him if I am yelling “Hurry!” all the time, does it? Instead of showing him he is loved and treasured, as I’d intended, I’ve been showing him, with my impatience and rushing, that he is a hassle, that doing things for him is a chore and an inconvenience. It was a rather uncomfortable view of me, and although the image I saw was a bit painful, I am so grateful for it, because now I have the opportunity to fix it.