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Weekend Life

DuBose: Children mimic parents, until they don’t

Our kids are like sponges. I’ve become even more aware of this recently, as I notice my growing daughter “noticing” me. I detect the subtle tilt of her head as she processes what’s being said and absorbs what she sees. At 11, she’s still guileless enough to let me see her “seeing” me, most of the time. I get that sometimes a child will model and try-on aspects of her parents’ habits and personalities to see what fits, on her way to becoming her own person, but it’s a daunting prospect – or, at least, a huge responsibility.

For example, a few weeks ago, when the house was uncharacteristically chilly, I warmed myself by pulling my arms inside my T-shirt . I was too tired to get off the couch to grab a blanket or mess with the thermostat.

“I’m gonna do that, too,” Holly said, imitating me as she tucked her arms inside her own shirt.

She’s in trouble if she tries to keep pace with my pathetic fashion sense. Oy vey (if you recall, I’m the woman who unwittingly wears her shirts backwards – even inside out, on occasion).

I recall that, years ago, because I had a pink bathrobe, Holly wanted one too. One afternoon when she was 5, the cable guy made a service call at a neighbor’s house. Because we were having cable issues of our own, I impulsively ran to the door and yoo-hoo’d to get his attention, just as he was leaving. I was clad only in my pajamas and robe, but I was picking my poison. (After all, I wasn’t optimistic that I’d score an appointment anytime soon, and my family was restless.) Holly promptly ran to don her pink robe (she was lucky – hers even sported a cheetah print, but I digress) and proudly stood beside me as I waved him over.

Being like mom is fine, most of the time – or was, until I decided, that I wanted to be like her and take piano lessons, too.

“I’m gonna have the same teacher as my mom? I don’t think so,” she recently retorted, when I finally got around to scheduling lessons. Two years ago this might have appealed to her, but not now, apparently. As it turns out, we don’t have the same teacher – for the time-being, anyhow. I really wanted to play the piano again. I also wanted to reinforce what she learns in her lessons, so I did something sneaky: I asked her if she’d be my piano teacher, instead, and she jumped all over the idea. When you’re 11, particularly when you’re the baby of the family, it’s super-important to be seen as competent. What’s more, I get to save a few bucks – except for the few she talked me into paying her for each lesson, that is.

“I’ll do it, but on one condition,” she said, pointing at me. “You pay me five bucks.”

“Ha!” It took me a minute to play along, as I hate commodifying anything (darn, I wish I’d offered to barter with her, instead, but with what? “I’ll do your chores?” “I’ll feed you?” Shoot.)

But then there are times when my imitating her is met with immediate acceptance. Go figure. Recently, I got a trim from my new favorite hairdresser. Walter, the owner of Flip Family Hair Care in Geneva is a great guy. The kids love him, and he likes to straighten my kinky hair after he blows it dry. So I love him too. Holly was impressed with his latest results; it was flat and shiny, just like hers.

“You look like a teenager!” She exclaimed, and volunteered to straighten it for me at home, whenever I want. I’m a wash and wear kind of girl, for better and for worse, but I couldn’t resist the offer. After all, I’m mindful of the fact that someday she may be too far away to touch – or simply decide she’s done playing hairdresser. Either way, I decided that unless I’m about to go up in flames I’ll keep my mouth shut and let her straighten my hair – with not one word of criticism or guidance from me. And you know what? She does all right. Better than all right, actually. (In fact, I know you’re super-affordable, Walter, but hey, if Holly figures out how to wield a pair of shears …)

• • •

The other night I sank into a hot bath with a book. Holly eventually wandered in and sat on the closed potty seat for a chat. I can’t remember what we talked about, just that we did. I do recall that she hoped I’d hurry up, as she also wanted to take a bath.

“I’m gonna read my book in the tub, too,” she announced, smiling as she left. The next time she came in, though (after I’d read another entire chapter), she left with my book under her arm after issuing stern directions to get a move on. Ha! So I did. A few moments later I finally wrapped myself in a towel and emerged from the bathroom as she slipped past me in the hall, pausing to kiss my cheek. Her hands were empty.

“Don’t you want your book?” I asked.

“Naa, I’m gonna take a shower,” she replied. Ah. So she’s her own person, indeed.

• Jennifer DuBose is a contributor for the Kane County Chronicle. She lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. She can be reached at jenniferdubose@msn.com.

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