Raising Mary: Who is Influencing Your Child?

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I do believe it, though. There’s no doubt my husband and I influence Mary more than anyone or anything else, but it’s clear from what she says and does every day that I impact her the most.

So many things that come out of her mouth that she first heard from mine.

It’s interesting; when you’re consciously teaching your child something, you’re careful about your actions and words. But it’s difficult to remember that your child is watching how you act and speak whenever they’re around you, absorbing your behaviour.

If Mary emulates something positive, it’s gratifying. Like when I go to the drive-thru and she politely calls out from the back seat in a sing-song voice before I get a chance to order. “I’d like a bagel with cream cheese, please. Thank you, lady!” Or when I spy her in her play kitchen, breaking play eggs into a dish precisely the way I do when we make muffins together.

But it’s like a glass of freezing water thrown in my face when she imitates something negative. A few months back, Mary startled me with her aggressive tone. “Mommy, I want you to come here right NOW.” Worse, I knew the scowl she wore, with her eyebrows fiercely knit together, was an unflattering image of myself from the day before when she wouldn’t come to me for a diaper change.

Mary takes her cues from Tom and me when it comes to mood, too. When we’re feeling cheery, she seems to be content and pleasant. If we happen to bicker or one or both of us is a grumpy, her penetrating child radar senses it and her own mood goes south.

She is also influenced by her grandparents, aunts and an uncle. Especially her grandmothers. She doesn’t so much imitate them as she soaks up their abundant grandmotherly love – their hugs, their kisses, and the time they love to spend with her. It makes her glow when she’s around them.

The next big influence on Mary Cooper at two-and-a-half years of age, I’m profoundly embarrassed to say, is her favourite television show. Ack!

But it’s the truth. I was one of those pre-parents who said my child wouldn’t watch television. But last summer, when I was sick and exhausted in early pregnancy, I let her watch way too much TV in the morning and she got hooked on a sweet little show about a talking little bear and his family. She loves it so much that it’s the only thing she watches; we record it every day. I can’t count the times my little girl has said something with origins unknown, and Tom and I have later realized it’s a line she heard from that program. She even calls Tom and me, ‘Mother Bear’ and ‘Father Bear’ occasionally (which I secretly love, because Mother Bear is the perfect mother I’ll never be)!

While we do have play dates and she has young cousins, too, I worry about whether Mary needs the influence of kids her own age, and so we’ve enrolled her in preschool for two days a week in the fall.

Given that a child’s values, self-esteem, behaviour and personality are overwhelmingly shaped in the early years, we’re happy with the influences Mary has now. We’ll enjoy this while it lasts; teenagehood awaits, after all. PC

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