“Come on!” says my 17-month-old.
She has a vocabulary of maybe 60 words, but apparently the phrase “come on” has made the cut. I started listening for how often I say it myself, and I am embarrassed. I thought that being a stay-at-home mom would mean that I wasn’t beholden to schedules, and ‘getting out the door on time’ and other constraints that would make me rush my exploring toddler. My child would always be granted the time to pause and learn about her environment. I would let her move on her own schedule — you know, in between all-organic snacks and Montessori activities.
Turns out, giving birth didn’t magically change my personality. They didn’t send me home from the hospital with a spare set of patience, so yes, I stand at the bottom of the stairs and repeat, “Come on!” in an increasingly irritated voice. It’s not a revelation I welcome, but it’s one of many that my daughter is offering me.
“Sit!” she admonishes her baby doll sternly. Unfortunately for Dolly, her plastic legs do not bend, and she has trouble complying with my toddler’s orders. Is that how I sound? Well, she can’t stand on the couch. It’s not safe. It’s okay to sound stern about safety issues, right? I am somehow feeling judged by this one-year-old, trying to defend my tone of voice. How come she doesn’t mimic the times I gently request that she sit down?
“Thank you!” she says sweetly, and the waiter who handed her a napkin does a double-take. I smile demurely and gloat inwardly. That’s on me, right? “Thank you” was one of her first phrases. That must mean I say it a lot, right? Polite mama raises polite child? Let’s go with that.
“Hug?” she asks her doll and embraces it. My heart melts. She is such a loving and demonstrative child. I love that I am part of this growing life.
“Mmmmmmmore?” she requests and I hide a smile. When first trying to teach her to ask for more of something, I emphasized the “M” sound, dragging it out and making the ASL sign with eyebrows raised. Now, she repeats this entire collection of actions every time, down to the tone of voice that goes up dramatically. She mimics everything, whether I do it consciously or not. Someday she’ll learn that the word ‘more’ doesn’t start with a two-second ‘Mmmm,’ but for now, it makes me laugh.
“I loll oo!” she garbles out at bedtime after I tell her I love her. My heart is full; I can physically feel the tightness in my chest when I look back at her. Those are the echoes I am happy to hear from myself. That is the legacy I hope to leave.
But we don’t get to pick. Our children live with us and their little recorders never stop running. I can only hope that my loving words outweigh my impatient ones, as my baby watches and learns.