Learning by Example

The coronavirus has my family staying home, and we are getting a little cabin fever. Yesterday we decided to move furniture to mix things up. It also made disinfecting the kids’ toys so much easier!

At one point, we had Anna’s toy buckets stacked up and drying. I bumped the pile, knocking it over and she immediately lunged for the fallen buckets. “It’s okay! It’s fine, mama! It happens!” She quickly squirreled around and collected them to restack. I was in awe for a moment. She, at two years old, had comforted me, her thirty year old mother. I wondered when she got so smart, when she became so kind and thoughtful, and how she learned how to comfort others.

I replayed her words in my head. “It’s okay. It’s fine. It happens.” Why did that sound so familiar? Oh, right. I laughed out loud at my slow realization. Those are the things I tell her when she makes mistakes. If she falls down, I try not to make a big deal of it and just say “you’re okay!” Usually this results in laughter and going back to playing instead of crying over the fall. When she spills things, I say “It’s fine. Accidents happen!”

These are phrases I use every single day, usually in times when she is upset that she has embarrassed herself, gotten a minor injury, or thinks she may get in trouble. I say them to make her feel better, so she knows things like this happen to everyone, and we have to stay calm and keep moving on. My hope is that these phrases will help her to later mentally compartmentalize accidents as ‘no big deal’ so she can focus on making them right and moving on. 

I am most impressed that Anna not only remembered these words in a moment of minor crisis, but was able to apply them with the intent to comfort me. It got me thinking of a Facebook meme I’ve seen going around lately- it reads something like ‘your children will barely remember the virus. They will remember how you reacted to it. Will you react in panic and chaos, or calm?’ 

Anna’s reaction to the buckets falling over was my “Ah-ha” moment, and those words on the meme finally clicked in my brain. I don’t want to be the mom who panics, or makes it sound like we will immediately die if we leave the house. I don’t want to be the selfish mom, the hoarding mom. I don’t want to be the yelling, mad mom.

I want to be the mom who checks on family and neighbors. I want to be the mom sending care packages to those who need it. I want to be the mom who is rational. I want to wash my hands, stay home, and not touch my face. I want to be the mom who follows the rules during a pandemic. I want to be the calm mom, the one who sometimes gets anxious but fights through it with grounding exercises, yoga, meditation and mindfulness. I want to be the mom who talks about my feelings, and listens to others talk about theirs. I want to be the mom who comes out on the other side of this pandemic with children who remember this time at home as positive.

If Anna can learn that “it’s okay, it’s fine” just from watching me respond to accidents, I know my kids can learn how to survive this time in a positive way. All I have to do is set a good example. If it sounds silly, I would have agreed with you a few days ago.( My corona plan at the time was just to survive.) It’s different now. The kids are always watching us. They learn more from our body language and facial expressions than anything else. My two year old learned to comfort mistakes just by hearing me do it. Now she will learn how to respond during a pandemic by watching me, and you bet your ass I’m going to set the best example I can.

In this time of craziness stay strong.

Stay healthy.

Stay home.

Kate and the Kids.

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