At 6, one of daughter Emma's favorite pastimes is playing the "copying game." She often fixates on me, repeating everything I say and mimicking my gestures. I suppose the game is flattering momentarily, but it usually goes on long enough that I begin to feel uncomfortable.
"OK, Emma, that's enough copying," I finally say.
"OK, Emma, that's enough copying," she parrots.
"Really, Emma, that's enough," I insist.
"Really, Emma, that's enough."
[Nervous laugh echo.]
I have discovered that telling Emma not to copy me doesn't work. In fact, the only effective way I have found to stop the game is to do something she can't do or doesn't want to mimic. Bringing up antidisestablishmentarianism, eating Brussels sprouts or starting a dreaded household chore are pretty efficient ways to stop Emma from copying me. You see, Emma decides not to follow me only when my choices take her in a direction she does not want to go.
Ephesians 5:1 instructs, "Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children."
Is it any wonder that scripture encourages us to imitate our Father? Children naturally want to copy their parents. Little boys push plastic lawn mowers, trying so hard to match their daddies step for step as they mow the yard together. Little girls love to plunder through Mommy's closet, hoping to look as beautiful as she does in her high-heeled shoes, makeup and jewelry. Little ones adore their parents and seek to emulate them in every way. As they grow, children seek more independence. But even into adulthood, many of our thoughts about the world and the ways we move through it are shaped by our parents' example.
As mothers, it is sobering to realize how profound our influence is. Our children will remember the cookies we make on occasion, but even more so, the choices we make every day. They will appreciate the meals we serve, but even more so, the people we serve along the way. They will be cheered to see us in the stands, and cheer when they see us taking a stand for what's right. They will watch us today with their eyes, but remember us always with their hearts.
I mentioned looking for ways to end the copying game with Emma. But really, the more significant thing to point out is the way the game begins. You see, the game usually starts long before I am aware of it. Sometimes I am conversing at the dinner table or working on a household project -- completely engrossed in what I am doing -- before I realize I am being studied. I have even awakened to find a bright-eyed Emma beside me on the bed, giggling that she has been mimicking my body positions while I slept.
We must remember that even when we are not aware, little eyes are always watching. They will pick up our little habits of daily living, but also the daily attitudes and actions that shape a life.
When playing the copying game, Emma decides to stop when she doesn't want to copy me anymore. But in life, my influence as her mother is so profound that she may not even realize how much she will grow to be like me. People will tell her she looks like me; I hope that will mean they see Jesus in her. They will say she sounds just like her mother; will that mean her words are always spoken with love? They won't believe how much she reminds them of me, so it's even more important that I remind her of Him.
At 6, little Emma is eager to slip her feet into my high-heeled shoes, ready to follow me wherever I go. And even as she grows, she will likely follow in my footsteps in many ways.
Knowing that our children will likely follow us into eternity, we must be mindful of each step. Little feet are following; let's be careful where we lead.
Join me this week as we celebrate motherhood on A Little Loveliness!