Tot's role-play is eye-opening for mom

September 15, 2011|Amy Dulebohn

A few years ago, country singer Rodney Atkins had a huge hit with the song "Watching You." The song told the story of a father whose young son said a "four-letter word," and when the dad asked the boy where he learned that, the youngster responded, "I've been watching you."

I appreciated the message, but when the song was released, I didn't have children of my own, so its appeal to me was limited.

Fast forward nearly five years and I am a busy, working, single mother. Life is good, but sometimes it's a bit of a blur.

In order to get my daughter to the child-care provider and myself to work each morning, I have to get us both clean, dressed and fed, make sure I have everything else we each might need for the day, and get out the door in a timely manner.

One morning, I was going through my usual daily struggle when something stopped me in my tracks. Literally, in my own shoes.

As I was gathering our things together, I called to my daughter who was playing in the other room. At first, I received no response, which is not unusual, after all, she is a strong-willed toddler. When I started to summon her again, I was drowned out by the clunk clunk clunk of ... a pair of my sandals perched on my daughter's pint-sized feet.

My mouth gaped open as she nonchalantly stomped into the room, sporting my shoes, with her tiny Little Mermaid pocketbook secured in the crook of her little arm. "My goodness," I thought, "she has me down perfectly."

 Later, as we drove down the road, I kept thinking about how much she was, in effect, watching me. In order to be prepared for her next great behavior role play, I needed to clean up my act. I had to quit biting my nails, eat more slowly, go to bed earlier and get up earlier, etc. Before long, I found myself obsessing about things that I do that I wouldn't want my daughter to pick up on.

A few weeks later, she and I were scrambling to get out the door again (so much for  getting up earlier). This time, she paused, and gently kissed each of her three dolls on the top of their heads, and softly said, "Bye," to each, before turning and walking out the door.

Again, I stopped in my tracks. She made the hardest part of my day look seamless. Even though I know she is in great hands while I am at work, I will never get used to saying goodbye to her each day. Watching her with her dolls, though, was so touching. It was as if, like me, she knew that she had to go, whether she wanted to or not, so she let them know she loved them, and then went about her business.

Maybe I don't have to try so hard. While I should stay mindful that my daughter is observing everything I do, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe she loves me for who I am, and I should just be myself and the best mother I can be  to my darling little girl.

And hopefully, by watching me, my daughter can learn to be herself and comfortable in her own skin, too.

First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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