A comment I’ve heard from parents of slightly older children goes something like this: “Wow, I’m surprised at how much my baby is paying attention to what I do. Just yesterday [he|she] started copying [some behavior]”.
Apparently kids are learning from you way earlier than you think they are. With that in mind, I’ve started thinking about my habits and how they might influence Ruby. I’ve certainly got my share of bad ones: I fart and belch, pick my nose, watch too much TV, swear, and leave little piles of clutter all over the house. At the moment Kate and I don’t really blink at a burp or fart, but I think it’s time to start putting those emanations in the proper context: being discreet instead of… well, boisterous; and throwing in the proper polite words as appropriate.
At the other end of the scale, there are some good habits that I want to reinforce in Ruby. As a kid I was pretty absentminded, and constantly misplaced things. I can still remember leaving school in second grade with my baseball glove, and somehow arriving home without it. How it managed to disappear remains a mystery. As a result of a lifetime of misplaced-things grief, I’ve now got a good habit of checking my surrounding area every time I leave a place, just in case I forgot something.
Similarly, I want Ruby to get into a habit of thinking about safety. Seeing as we’re training Ruby for a career in the circus, we’ll probably be guiding her towards activities that might appear more dangerous than others. And I want to get her into the habit of thinking about safety so that she can be more comfortable, and of course safer, while playing.
As an aside, teaching about “safety” has all kinds of corollaries: you need to understand yourself and your physical limitations; you need to understand the same about those around you; you need to know about your environment, the equipment you’re using, cause and effect, and how things can change depending on various circumstances. There’s a lot of learning that can be grouped under “safety”.
Anyway, Ruby’s still too young for lectures about hard hats. For now, I think I will just try to really ratchet up the usage of my polite words — not just with Ruby, but with Kate and with others I know. If it’s a good habit, it shouldn’t be just for Ruby. As for the bad habits… well, there’s nothing that a polite “excuse me” can’t cover, right?