It is crazy to me how often people can be like parrots. As a child you hear things over and over again and instinctively repeat them. Words, both good and bad on the tip of child’s tongue, run warm over our hearts or freeze our very souls. The true power without understanding. You grow up and some of those phrases stick; some are just words without actions, others spoken on command. Studies show that by the age of nine our personalities are pretty much set. As a parent, that is a very scary thought. All the wrongs I have done, said, acted on, all the “less-than-lovin’-mama”moments that have occurred due to stress, lack of sleep, the feeling of drowning in a life of your own doing, have molded these clay babies. The true power without understanding. There are phrases we say to our littles so often that they become background noise, “You are doing great, keep your hands to yourself, don’t worry, brush your teeth, i love you, hurry up, we have to go now, good luck, I’m on the phone, it’s going to be alright, just a minute, you can do it, please stop arguing, sweet dreams.” If often takes until adulthood to know which phrases have left a mark.
Sometimes you get a glimpse as to what they are remembering. Hot cocoa and fire moments or ice pick in the side moments, they happen. I would consider myself the poster model for those cute t-shirts, you know the ones that say, “I love Jesus but I cuss a little.” Guilty. The hubs shirt may need a little altering as to not be a blatant lie, but that’s not for me to say. We try our damnedest not to do so in front of our “sweet as pie and a glass of lemonade on the porch at sunset” children, however, stepping on Legos and matchbox cars at 3 am when you are summoned from a dead sleep to “fix the pillows and properly cover Christoph and Carlos,” hurts. Badly. As we had more and more children, and the addition of not only a boy as #4, but said legos and tiny metal toys with wheels, we may have become a little more lenient in this area. I am not condoning this, rather being real here. This reality also happens to be a great example in support of my parrot theory, so I am going for it. Both examples I am about to share are from my son. They prove to me one of the following: a.) He is really paying close attention to his parents or b.) He has an infinity for cuss words or c.) He is a parrot.
Imagine you are a guest at the happiest place on earth. Not YOUR happiest place. The place where so many have become elated, dreamy and magical that it has been deemed the happinest place on earth. Disney world. Our family was at Disney world. Our son, who was four at the time and obsessed with Lightning McQueen, was growing increasingly frustrated over the fact that he had not yet been able to see the famous race car, let alone get a picture, despite the fact that we had spent hours standing in lines for his sisters to have photo shoots dressed as princess, with princesses. He is over it. It is only mid morning and he is using food to cope with his feelings of disappointment by requesting snack after snack. We happily oblige the first few snack attacks in a row and then try distracting him. For those of you who don’t know Finn, he has a million allergies and his snacks are like liquid goal. We have packed more than we think we will need, but can’t replace them at the nearest Mickey vendor. So we say, “Not now, Buddy.” “Just wait a bit, please.” “In a little while, ok?” It not really doing the trick. And then, (brace yourself) my little sweet nugget of a boy looks right at the hubs and yells, “Can I just have my FUCKIN’ pretzels?!?!?!” Insert every happy face turned in our direction. Oh, the judgement was a saltier than those pretzels, no doubt.
The hubs pulled him aside and gave him a talking to. Imagine all the things that you would say in a moment like this and that is pretty much what was said, or so I imagine. I grabbed the girls and walked as far away as I could without getting lost, just to escape the sea of disapproving eyes in mouse ears. Upon return to the team, Finn is wiping his snotty nose and trying to pull it together, but he is not over the pretzels. So he looks up at me and continues with his snack request. I remind him that he needs to ask nicely for things and be polite. His big brown eyes with wet lashes for miles are staring at me and then he takes a deep breath and says, “Can I have my fucking pretzels, please?”
Sigh. Where the FUCK is Lightning McQueen…
About a year and a half later, the hubs was asking the kids one of those lists of questions that were going all around Facebook. He asks Finn the question, “What is something that I say a lot?”
Most days when he is telling me a story about school, there is a pause and he asks me a question about what happened. Since I was not there I remind him that I don’t know and we play this intense guessing game about facts from his day. Most mornings at breakfast when I ask him what he would like he says, “I can’t know,” and then goes on to describe things in colorful and intriguing ways. This kid can not remember the word “waffle”, instead describes it as “the brown circle thing with little squares dipped in it,” but swear words do not allude him. While these words are few and far between in the thousands of words he says everyday, they stuck. Clearly we say them more than waffle.
My point is much bigger than f-bombs and dumbasses. It’s that we can never be completely certain of what is being absorbed. What will stick in their minds, what will shape the things they believe, about themselves and others, their situations, the world at large?
“I can’t know.”
The world is full of parrots. And I don’t mean only children. People repeat what they hear, they mirror what they see, the mock and squawk to be heard. Unfortunately we see more of the negative behaviors spiraling around us to parrot. It pains me to see where the vessel we are on is headed, what the world will become when my children have children. That fear is a driver for change and is all the more reason to make my mess my message. We may eat glitter for breakfast around here, but we also have dark spaces, glue that adheres us to past projects, fears and angers stuck to the shiny parts. We are a colorful mess of parrots whose rainbow feathers, I pray, will fill the sky with encouragement, kindness, compassion and love, while wearing our t-shirts proudly and using our f-bombs to fuel the passion to do good. I think Jesus would be cool with that.
Put out something you want others to imitate.
It matters, you matter.