Preschoolers: The World’s Most Brutally Honest Mirrors (But Not In The Way You’d Think)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our kids (especially at this age – mine is almost 4) are such perfect little mirrors of ourselves – whether we want to see the reflection or not.

As he gets older and more perceptive, I think a lot about how it’s not just about how I talk TO my son, but AROUND my son.

I think a lot about a friend of mine whose child (around two years old) recently told her she was fat. And it really wounded her, even though she is objectively one of the most fit, not-fat people I know. Which left me with the realization that he didn’t come up with this idea on his own. She felt unhappy about her body, and she let her outlook affect how she spoke about herself in front of her family.

(I say this from a place of non-judgement, love, and commiseration, as I too have lots of body issues.)

But it occurred to me then that there’s a catch – our kids aren’t prophetically (brutally honestly) mirroring reality – the image is distorted because they’re mirroring our perception of it.

It started to make me worry about how my own perceptions were playing out inside my kid’s head. Lord knows I utter so many things I shouldn’t; and my combination of self-deprecating humor and sarcasm can’t be a good influence. And the kid’s already spouted enough four-letter words for a kid twice his age (albeit in the proper context, which makes me half proud, half horrified).

Well, last week I got my answer. Or rather the sum of my reflection?

Last week, on multiple occasions, Teddy whined about wanting to go to Target, and wanting a bigger house.

He observed, he calculated, and he summed up my entire existence:

  1. Target addiction
  2. Lust for Country Club Cottages

Smack me with a dose of reality and delete the Realtor.com app from my phone, why dontcha!

My husband and I have been daydreaming and looking at houses and talking about how nice it would be to have more space to have people over, or just plain more space. The whole time I didn’t realize I was being sized up and examined by my mini-me. It was such a wakeup call – I don’t want him to be materialistic. I want him to be grateful for what we have – which is so many blessings.

(In regards to Target? Well, that habit’s here to stay. But to be fair, almost every time he goes to Target he gets a toy – which is its own separate problem. Although not entirely unrelated.)

The whole thing really freaked me out. I don’t want him to ever think what we have isn’t good enough, or even worse, think that about someone else. I want him to be humble and kind and not jealous of others, and never equate material possessions with personal worth.

Wake up call officially answered.

So thank you, four-year-old mirror. You may return to your regularly scheduled complaining about only wanting the noodle mac ‘n cheese NOT the shells ‘n cheese, throwing a fit when the dog takes your spot when you get off the couch, and losing sleep (keeping us awake) over how Forky from Toy Story is “scary” but the Harry Potter dementors are no big deal.

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