Tonight I learned another important lesson in parenting.
I have the honor and privilege of doing the bedtime routine with The Boy pretty much every night. He usually rocks dinner, we'll hook him up with a bath, get him in his jammies, and put him to bed. Between the jammies and bed is the – duh duh duh – brushing his teeth.
Putting myself in his footies I could see how this might be a scary thing. He's used to putting objects like noodles, strawberries, toy cars, or paper in his mouth; the odd bristles and back and forth cleansing nature are all foreign and frightening. We tried to get him to brush on his own and then we tried brushing his teeth for him, but that just led to him burying his face anywhere he could.
So when he started getting upset we took the next step we knew would work – we had him brush his teeth in front of the mirror so he could see himself. Vanity runs strong through the veins of even the youngest hearts, apparently.
Eventually that stopped working. Vanity has it's limits.
Tonight I tried something different. Standing in the bathroom, holding The Boy in front of the mirror as he grasped tightly onto his little Elmo toothbrush, I decided to take out my toothbrush and brush with him.
And this was a game changer.
Instead of getting upset when either he or I tried to brush his teeth, he was nothing but curious. As I brushed, I made a big smile changing my speed from really slow to really fast, just to keep him on his toes. He watched so intently and then I saw him try to mimic me. He even let me move the brush around brush his teeth in a way that he never did before.
He wanted to do everything I did.
And that's when it hit me – this is something I never modeled for him! We've asked The Boy to brush his teeth, we've tried to brush his teeth, and we may have even brushed our teeth in front of him for a few seconds, but I never took the time to show him how it's done and actually do it alongside him.
The Boy's at an age that I'm sure most parents wish lasted longer where their kids want to do everything they do. When I stretch, he gets down on the floor, sits on my legs, and stretches with me. When I say something, he tries to repeat it. When I dance around the house, doing odd Lisi things, he stomps and spins with me. And of course, when I want to put on my shoes for work, he's already got them on.
As parents, one of the most important roles we have with our kids is to model actions, responsibility and life to our children, especially early on in life as their taking in the world. Why? Because their world is pretty much us. And that's awesome.