As she's going down for her afternoon nap, and just before she goes down for the night, Miss Deirdre doesn't want to read a book. She doesn't want to hear a song. She wants to be told a story. A good, old-fashioned, homegrown, made-up story that either her Dad or I come up with about one of her favorite relatives or animals - alive or past, real or stuffed, respectively. The stories don't last for more than a minute or two - mine having a beginning, middle and an end, while Johnny's are a bit more "free-flowing" (what a treat listening to each other's stories through the monitor!) - but Deirdre absolutely loves them. And her memory! I can't believe how much she remembers from one night to the next. We've told stories about just about everyone - past, present, and future - and she just can't get enough of it.
But here's the cutest thing of all (as any parent will tell you, I'm sure) - almost every night after we put her down, we turn on the monitor, and you can hear her telling her own whopper of a story - perhaps to the stuffed animals in her bed, or maybe to herself - but it couldn't be cuter. She goes on and on and on, in her perfect little 1 and a half year old blabber. And it is adorable.
So this had made me realize just how much she mimics us - particularly me - in just about every aspect. (If I had any doubt about what I sound like when I'm talking on the phone, Deirdre has cleared up the mystery. I just have to listen to her as she's pretending to talk on the phone - and her "Yeahs", "Nopes", "Uh-huhs" and "Okays" are me to a "T". She does a perfect imitation, and even has my intonation down!) She watches, listens, and learns...and then repeats. It's the sweetest, most endearing thing - and I realize what a responsibility we have to be fine, upstanding parents - not just in what we say and do, but in the way we treat one another, and ourselves.
So when it comes to the way I take care of myself, I realize I now have an audience. As she grows older, she's going to clue in on when I'm feeling crummy, and how I choose to deal with it, or when I push myself instead of choosing to stop and relax. Would I ever want her to think that her health and well-being should take a back seat? Would I ever want her to push herself so hard that she ignores the needs of her body? So she runs herself into the ground? So that she makes herself sick? Of course not!
And I want to lead by example, not only for Deirdre's sake, but for my family, friends, even babysitters or others with whom I come into contact. I want people to think of me as someone who takes care of herself - not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but in a responsible, self-aware manner that makes them realize it's okay to put their health and wellness first, too. That, in fact, I expect them to.
If you deny yourself the need for a little extra rest when you're feeling crummy, a day off when you need it, or fail to seek medical attention when necessary, what kind of signal are you sending?
Are you leading by example?
Are you taking care of yourself, so that others feel like they can (and should) do the same?
Are you teaching your kids to respect their bodies, your co-workers to give in when they need to, and encouraging friends and family to ask for and accept help when they need it?
Think about it - and if you have any doubts - ask your kids, or a loved one what they think. Believe you me, even at a year and a half, they'll give you an answer!