I have a copy-cat at home. Someone who mirrors my actions, repeats my words and has now even taken up mimicking my gestures. This copy-cat is of the nearly-two year old type, very inquisitive and although fearless at times, still needs a helping hand going down the stairs.
Whatever Cesca hears, Cesca says. Her parents are now ‘Jo’ and ‘Ant’ and her ‘uncle Edward’ is ‘uuuuuuncle Dwedward’. She spent the whole of yesterday saying ‘bongu’ (good morning) to everyone we met, and this because she heard it from my mother first thing in the morning. She grabs the telephone by one hand, puts it to her ear, covers her other ear with her free hand and says ‘hello’ to the dead line. She is fixated on belly-buttons, and has now started coming up to me in public and pulling my top upwards just to see mine. She laughs it off – I end up tugging my top down and feeling slightly embarrassed. She is now fixated with a ball I bought her last Saturday morning. She still hasn’t mastered kicking so she throws it around for now, shouting ‘goal’ every now and then. And when playing becomes too tiring, she will pat on a stone ledge and order you to ‘sit down’.
As for her actions, she is growing more and more vain by the day. Whenever she puts on an outfit she asks for the mirror to check herself out, and the only way I can properly do her hair is with her standing in front of the mirror studying what I’m doing, and saying ‘how pretty’. She brings me shoes to wear and has had several melt-down episodes when she rediscovered her winter boots and insisted upon wearing them. After screaming the place down and throwing the mother of tantrums, she finally settled on her shoes.
There are characteristics of her which amaze me because she is so young. She has the most amazing (and most irritating) habit of shutting everybody and everything out whenever she is doing something which requires any level of concentration. If she is busy lining up her blocks according to colour, my calls to her remain unnoticed. She makes no reaction at all and continues with what she is doing. Only when she is truly satisfied by what she did will she ‘turn on’ again and return to normal so to say. Whenever I’m writing down the numbers or alphabet for her, she zooms her head to the paper, studying each stroke of the pencil and repeating the number/letter in a hushed tone.
I also see signs of myself in her. Just like myself at a younger age, she has a fascination for street signs. She points at them and stops to study each and every one. According to my mother, I was the same. (I still haven’t figured out the meaning of that one). Another thing she has started doing lately is air-drawing numbers and figures. Cesca does this with the numbers and shapes. I was pretty amazed seeing her do it, only because I remember myself doing it when I was younger. So if you see Cesca drawing a number one with her figure in space, just know it’s pretty normal in our family.
So our freedom of expression has been slightly diminished in this household. The first week Cesca was here, she was in the room with me and her aunt. Aunt V told me about a young baby who had just been born and named Chloe. Five or six weeks down the line, Cesca still talks about baby Chloe. It took us quite a while trying to figure out who Chloe was.
We always were, but now more than ever, super-careful about what we say and do around Cesca. It’s a terrible cliche’ but young children do take all their surroundings in and soak up everything that you expose them to. It is so terrifying when you realize how easy it is to get it all wrong – how insightful young children are and how they immediately realize that they have just heard something they were not supposed to. So of course, however careful you are and whatever measures you take to ensure that your child is only exposed to the correct way of things, you will get it wrong once in a while, and you can be most certain that your little copycat will soak it up in immediately. You yourself will then realize this in the most embarrassing way possible – in my case, Cesca bending over to a relative’s sandal-clad feet and saying ‘pfff’ when I was out with company.
Because children do not make lives any easier for parents. Oh no, they don’t.
How do you cope with your own little copycats? How do you monitor their surroundings and environment to ensure they’re exposed to the good rather than the wrong, especially when out in public? Does it all end when they start school and start mixing up with children you can’t keep an eye on – does all your hard work go to vain?