The other day, my family went out to a large wooded area in the country. It was so refreshing just to get out of the city. This adventure is my son’s favorite outing because he gets permission to use his hatchet—so amazing for him. I was helping my husband with the deer feeder, and some of the kids were nearby erecting “Fort Thorny.” My daughter, who is fourteen months younger than her brother, has always exhibited the attitude of “Anything you can do, I can do better.” When receiving his okay to use his hatchet, she began chopping at a branch—quite ineffectively. My son offered advice on how to use the hatchet more efficiently—quite kindly, actually—but his sister scoffed at his ideas. I began to hear, “Ugh!” “I can do it!” “Why?” and “Just be quiet!” After this argument continued escalating, I went over and tried to offer peace. I assured my daughter that I, too, find it hard to take advice from someone, but how important it is to learn from others—even big brothers.
Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks—my daughter is almost an exact image of me. And I didn’t like it, not one little bit. Often, when someone offers me advice, it’s very difficult for me to take it. It made me realize that people had been encouraging me to be more teachable for most of my life, but it didn’t really sink in until I saw the same habit in my daughter.
This year, my family is having an especially difficult time adjusting to the school year. We have a new school, new routine, new everything. Afternoons can be particularly hard on everyone. Major meltdowns will inevitably happen at times, but as I saw my son meltdown because he was hungry, it made me realize that I do very much the same thing. One evening, I showed my husband a bag that made him laugh. On it was written: “I’m not responsible for what I said when I was hungry.” It was another instance recently when I realized that our children are indeed reflections of ourselves.
This mirroring phenomenon makes our vocation to motherhood unique. My husband and I work together to get each other to heaven, but on purpose or not, our children do the same for us. They will, of course, have their own personalities, but there can be times when their behavior should cause us to step back and reflect on ourselves. Do we see ourselves in them? What are we modeling for them? Perhaps, I need to change or drop some habits or deepen my virtue. Do I need help to change? It’s important to seek help from our husbands, priests, wise friends, or even a therapist.
When our children watch us working hard to improve ourselves, it can make a big impact. I could counsel them all day long to try being more teachable, or use a better tone of voice, or tomorrow is another day to try again, but it is me appropriating those same actions on a daily basis that will make a difference in their lives. We influence each other more than we sometimes realize. How many saints are there who have been influenced by their mothers? Let’s polish our mirrors so that we reflect a “shinier” self to our children.