It's amazing the little things that our kids do that reflect what they see in us. That phrase you don't realize you use so often. Facial expressions, hand gestures, body movements, personality quirks. Our children absorb all these little parts of us, and then we see them coming back to us from these tiny little packages.
Staley is no exception. There are so many things she says and does that mirror what she sees and hears from us every day. Some of these things are really cute, like the other night when Zach gave her a drink of water and she responded, "Thanks, man!" Or when she tells Adelie, "You are something else!" But lately I've been seeing some of my tendencies come out of Staley in a way that makes me rethink things a little bit.
I am not a neurotic neat freak. But I am organized. I make the girls clean up before we move on to another play area. I often vacuum after dinner, do the dishes after meals, and make sure all the toys are put away before bedtime. And I like to keep our clothes stain-free. To that end, I will sometimes have Staley wear a bib or change out of a nice white dress/shirt if we're sitting down to a messy meal. If the girls spill blackberry jam or tomato sauce on an outfit, I will often have them change so I can spray it/wash it before the stain sets. We still paint. We dig in the dirt and jump in puddles. I just want to preserve clothing as best as we can.
Lately, however, Staley has become very concerned about staining. As we sit down to a meal, Staley will often ask "Does this stain?" She has occasionally passed on favorite foods (like skipping jam on her roll or ketchup with her nuggets) if she's wearing a white shirt or a favorite outfit. If she spills a little something on her shirt, she will often ask for a Shout wipe right away to get it clean. I want to keep her clothes looking nice, but not at the expense of my daughter not enjoying her meals or her activities for fear that something won't come out in the wash.
In the same way, cleaning has always been something that Staley likes to do with me. I used to think she just liked doing 'big girl' activities, but now I realize that she might be a little bothered by messes (kind of like her mama). At her second birthday party, we did an activity where the kids had to find objects hidden in buckets of rice. When finished with the game, Staley noticed all the rice on the floor and rushed off to get her little broom so she could sweep it up. After meals, she often gets her little broom to sweep up the crumbs under her chair. Helping me cook usually results in Staley doing the dishes and sweeping/mopping the floor when we're done. If something rips, Staley is quick to bring it to me so it can be taped back together. Cleanliness and orderliness seem to be finding their way into Staley.
Learning some of these skills early isn't all bad. Picking up, helping with chores, eating neatly. These are all things that I want my girls to learn how to do. However, I don't want learning these skills to be accompanied by anxiety. I want them to enjoy the mess and chaos that comes with being a kid. I didn't think I'd made a big deal about stains and messes and cleaning, but obviously enough to have made an impression on Staley. So I need to rethink my approach, change my response, and shift my focus. I want my children to enjoy a happy, messy, carefree childhood...and not end up in therapy because of an irrational fear of 'the stain.'