The behavior I want my kids to imitate

buffyIn my latest novel, “The Moment Keeper,” Grandma overhears 5-year-old Sarah playing with her Barbie dolls.

Sarah’s father is a drunk who views her as the instrument of her mother’s death.

In the following scene, Sarah holds Barbie in one hand and Ken in the other.

Ken has come to Barbie’s smelling like he bathed in whiskey.

• • •

“What are you doing here?” Barbie asked. “You can barely stand.”

I made Ken wobble. “Come to get me some money.”

“But I gave you money yesterday,” Barbie said.

“And I need more today, woman.”

“You know better than to come here like this,” Barbie said.

“Are you going to give me the money or am I going to take it?”

Grandma walked in. Her hands shook. “No, no, no. That’s not how we play.”

She sat on the floor and picked up the Ken doll.

“Would you like to go out for dinner?” Grandma said in her best male voice.

“Ken doesn’t like to go out to dinner,” I said. “He likes to drink. He likes that bar around the corner.”

Grandma shook her head. “He stopped drinking.” Again, Grandma pretended to be Ken. “Would you like to go out to dinner?”

“That’s too expensive. Why don’t you pick up a roasted chicken at the grocery store and we can pretend that it came from a fancy restaurant?”

Grandma burst into tears and put the Ken doll down. “I can’t play anymore,” she said, and went to her room. I heard her crying.

• • •

This might be fiction, but there is a lot of truth to this scene. Children imitate. They do what they see you do and say what they hear you say. Our behavior and attitudes can influence them and impact their lives for years to come.

Children learn to love by being loved.

They learn respect and appreciation by being respected and appreciated.

They learn empathy and forgiveness and kindness from you. And they learn how to deal with stress and adversity.

I try to be conscious of this, although I admit that I don’t always model good behavior. Sometimes, I’m mad or impatient or I say things that I shouldn’t. But most of the time I’m proud of how I act and what my kids have learned by watching me over the years.

When I started signing book contracts, my sons said, “We’re proud of you, Mom. You’ve worked hard.”

It occurred to me that all those years they watched me pursue my dream influenced them in ways I hadn’t thought about.

They, too, have dreams and they work hard to achieve them. That’s influence I’m proud of.

Buffy Andrews is Assistant Managing Editor of Features and Niche Publications for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. She’s also its Social Media Coordinator.

Buffy Andrews

Assistant Managing Editor of Features and Niche Publications for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Also, Social Media Coordinator.

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2 Responses

  1. Jesse H Grimm says:

    My wife and I started to college when our daughters started to 1st grade and K. My wife had never worked out of the home or been away from our daughters for any period of time up until we started to college. She was a full time Mom. After we graduated from college my wife got her first job and she still tells about the first time she brought home a paycheck, showed it to our daughters, and the girls said “Mommy, we are so proud of you.” That moment has stuck with us through today, some forty plus years latter.

  2. Jesse H Grimm says:

    Sometimes we watch our parents and the adults around us while we are children and something clicks inside and we say “I never want to be like that.” I was raised in a home where there was love and hard work and alcohol. It was in coal country and it was a rough and tumble life style. In all homes there was a lot of drinking and yelling. I decided while in my early teens that I did not want to live like this should I ever have my own family. To this day I cannot tolerate yelling or “yellers” in any instance and do not really like to be around folks who drink to the point of being drunk. While we observe as children, we can decide to be different.

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