Starting today, our ‘sponge’ is home for the school holidays. That is what Hailey’s Headmistress called our children when we joined them for the school parent’s day today. “They will absorb everything you do like a dry sponge takes in water. They will imitate everything regardless of what you say to them. When it comes to children, action indeed speaks louder than words. So do you want your children to be generous? Be generous. You want them to be neat? Be neat. You want them to have etiquette and use proper language? Then have etiquette and use proper language.” She said
These words hit home for me because I had had a clear demonstration about this just a few days back.
As a routine, Hailey and Heidi’s first stop when they wake up from their bed in the morning is to come to my room. If I am not awake, they will wake me up to say good morning. I don’t know how it started but it has stuck. Sometimes when I have the very rare chance of sleeping in, I bid them good morning really fast and dive back under the covers to continue sleeping. I learnt the hard way that ignoring them only helps to make them more persistent. Ever heard a child trying to get their mother’s attention when she is on the phone or when she is engrossed in a conversation with another adult? That kid will not stop tugging and pulling and chanting ‘MUMMY!’ until you pay him or her some attention. I am sure by now every mother knows that once a child starts with the incessant ‘MUMMYs’ the smart thing is to respond immediately and nip the chorus in the bud. You might think they are pestering you then but wait until you ignore them. But I digress and I don’t have a generous word count to work with so…
The events after the morning greetings are always somewhat routine;
Hailey will rush to the bathroom (thank God, she is not a bedwetter) After the bathroom visit, she will go to the sitting room, switch on the TV, search for the cartoon channel and watch cartoons as she awaits further instructions on how her day should proceed. If it is a school day, she will, sooner or later, quit cartoons and get ready for school. If not a school day, she will have to wash her face and take her breakfast.
Being the diaper kid that she is (don’t ask), Heidi skips the bathroom trip. She normally wakes up with an appetite and will want breakfast pronto! With a slice of bread in her hand, she will roam around the house. She will be in the living room for a minute to sip her tea, watch a bit of cartoon with Hailey. Then she will pinch her or grab something from Hailey and run to their bedroom. Hailey will yell at her. “I am not your friend!” she will say. Heidi will return whatever she took and ask pleadingly “Hailey, are you my friend?” to which Hailey will respond in the affirmative. Happy Heidi will then go about touching stuff and throwing things around as she eats. Calls for her to take her breakfast while seated will go unheeded. We now know why we always find a half eaten slice of bread in the laundry basket or on the shoe rack.
When she is bored with everything and everyone else, she will barge into my room, most probably finding me awake or if it’s my very lucky day, then I could still be under the covers. Should I still be sleeping, she will exit to come back later. Should I be awake, then she will hang around. She will join me when I bow down my head to pray. She will insist on helping me to make my bed and make a mess out of it in the process. She will run out of the room to take another sip of tea, come back with another slice of bread, complain that she doesn’t like honey on her bread, complain that her tea has no sugar and bring it to me for verification. I will taste the warm tea (I love my tea scalding-hot, so tasting her lukewarm tea is torture) only to find that it actually does have sugar. I will tell her that her tea is just fine and convince her to take it. She will oblige and keep roaming in and out of every room in the house. All this time, her sister will be laughing at something Garfielddid or said.
On the material day, she found me trying on a dress I was to wear that day. I stood in front of the mirror looking at myself. Heidi stood quietly observing me. I then turned to assess my behind. Satisfied that it looked fine (ha!) I ironed the dress of choice and went to take a shower.
When I came back from the bathroom, who do I find in my room? Heidi. What is she doing? She is looking at herself in the mirror. How? She has her back turned to the mirror and get this, she is checking out her diaper-donned ass!
If it wasn’t clear to me how imitative children are, it became crystal clear to me then.
So the headmistress was right. It is indeed true that Children are like sponges. They soak up everything from us; the good, the bad, the ugly.