My child cured my road rage.

If one of these cut me off, I’d probably be okay with it.

At least for a day, seeing as I haven’t driven yet, Eliza has fixed my road rage.

Since having children, this is yet another thing that has changed.  When I first had Eliza, I thanked God that she couldn’t understand a word I was yelling (and sometimes cursing) at other drivers.  When she started to talk, I realized she would repeat pretty much everything I said, especially if it made me laugh.  Remember dammit?

Now, I have one repeater (Zach) and one “mommy” (Eliza).  Eliza is very maternal, likes to tell people what to do, and likes to correct them.  (I know you’re laughing right now if you know me at all.)

Last night, we were on our way to her very first dance recital, and I was concerned about not getting good seats, so of course, every other car on the rush hour road was a serious hindrance to my plans.  I’ve changed, though, in the sense that I now simply talk down to other drivers instead of yelling at them.

“Really?  That’s what you’re going to do?  Thanks – a turn signal would have been nice.”

“Oh, please, cut in front of me, because what you have to do most certainly must be more important than what I have to do.”

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?  I was in the middle of having some of these one-sided conversations with the people on the road.  And Eliza said, “Mommy what are you doing?”  And I said, “I’m just talking to the other drivers.”  Then she said, in a calm and slightly condescending manner, “They can’t hear you, Mommy.”  Of course Greg had to chime in, “I’ve been telling your mommy that for years, Eliza.”

Perhaps he has.  Maybe it’s easier to learn from your innocent children than it is to do so from your spouse.  But when she said that to me, for some reason, I didn’t want to respond with, “But it makes me feel better.”  I didn’t have anything to say for myself.  I was just quiet.  She was right.  They can’t hear me.  From now on, I’m going to try to stop talking to them.  I have no idea if it will stick, but at least for the moment, she has me contemplative and cured.

Parenting lesson # 23: Your kids learn to talk by repeating what you say.

Teaching your kids to talk is a double-edged sword.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve already been embarrassed by what Eliza has said, mostly because it’s so obvious she’s repeating something she learned from me.  Something bad.  And it only seems to be getting worse.

Luckily for me, there haven’t been any recent instances of her saying “dammit!” like she learned about a year ago.  I taught myself not to say that word.  No, now she is much more into poop.

We’re trying to train her that “poop” talk is not funny, but somehow, especially with her friends, it is the funniest word she knows.  They will sit and giggle and just say it over and over and over.  It doesn’t help that yesterday, she was playing and just kept saying, “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap” when she couldn’t get things to go her way.  I instantly knew she must have heard me say that (apparently it is my replacement for “dammit”).  It was such an ironic moment because I keep trying to tell her not to use potty talk, but I do it obviously often enough for her to pick up the word and its proper usage (though I don’t think she knows that crap is a worse form of the word poop.  Yet.)

It’s the classic lesson of “do as I say, not as I do.”  It’s often funny to hear your kids repeat the not-so-great things you say, but it’s also scary.  It’s like every sentence you speak goes on the record and could be repeated at any moment (most likely when it would be the most mortifying).  So, now I can add “crap” to my list of no-no words.  I’m quickly running out of options.  Maybe I’ll start saying “drat” or make up a word, like, “snaggle!”  I need to come up with something before I fall on my proverbial “double-edged” sword.

Top 10 reasons to love staying at home with your kids

I suffer from a constant, nagging internal struggle about wanting to work.  I’ve talked with and listened to so many moms who try to put into words their very same torment over this issue.  Because the grass is always greener on the other side, I find myself wishing often that I could have a sick day, or that my kids were messing up a daycare center instead of my house, or that I could pee in peace in a bathroom stall at work.  But today, I want to focus on the many blessings of being present, in the here and now, with my children.  Here are just the tip of the iceberg reasons to enjoy this precious time with them:

10. Your children need your presence more than they need your presents. I once read this on a church bulletin board as I drove by, and it stuck.  We live in a society that tells us if we buy our kids the best sneakers or video games or get them into the best private schools, we love them more than parents who don’t provide these things.  It’s bologna.

9. You can’t have quality time without quantity time.  Quality time can’t be forced to fit into scheduled time slots.  I’ve found that when I schedule special events, they often don’t live up to expectations.  The mundane tasks of everyday life give me those moments when Eliza looks over at me while I’m cooking and says, “I love you mommy.  Thanks for making me dinner.”

8. I might not get sick days, but I get play days. It is unusually warm for a winter day.  And I have the freedom to take my kids outside and enjoy the sunshine.  If I weren’t my own boss, I couldn’t do that.

7. Kids are sponges and they soak up everything – especially dirt and grime. I don’t have to wonder what my kids are learning about life from someone else.  The worldview they are getting is the one Greg and I want to teach them.  Sure, so I have a 2 1/2-year-old who says “freaking” and “what the heck?” and even “DAMMIT.”  It could be so much worse.

6. You get to experience the wonder of learning everything for the first time. Let’s face it – our earliest memories are probably from about age three.  It’s amazing to watch infants and toddlers learn day-by-day how the world works – how toilet paper rolls off if you spin it, how dirt tastes, how water splashes, how to give a good raspberry, how to sing a song and how to annoy the dog.

5. We only have to consider one person’s work schedule when planning vacations and trips. Every time I think about getting a part-time job, I cringe at the thought of not being able to get off work when I want to get off work.

4. My kids really get to know me. For better or worse, my children see all the sides of me.  Sometimes, I fly off the handle, like I did briefly this morning when I got Zach dressed and he subsequently spilled the dog water bowl all over the floor and himself, and then did the same thing with my water-glass about two minutes later.  When I mess up, I get the opportunity to model apologizing, taking responsibility for my mistakes, and accepting forgiveness from them.  If I were working, there wouldn’t be enough time to reveal my true self to my kids.

3. I can better serve my husband. When I went back to work after having Eliza, things like laundry, dry cleaning and dishes didn’t get done and we ate a lot of takeout.  I was getting by with the bare minimum.  I didn’t have enough hours in the day to do anything really well, and for a type-A person, that’s a very hard place to be.

2. Nap time. I am anal about this and I have always coordinated their naps so the two of them sleep at the same time in the afternoon.  If I need to take a snooze, I can.  There’s no way you can do that at work.

1. Not even Mother Teresa could love your kids like you do.  No other boo boo kisser, monster deterrer, bug squasher, book reader or nose and fanny wiper could substitute for you.  Period.

My little mimic

It’s pretty amazing how easily an almost two-year-old finds it to repeat words and sounds you make.  Greg likes to play a musical game with Eliza where he makes “bah bah bah” or “lah lah lah” sounds in varying patterns and she repeats them.  This would be an example of a good mime.  This morning at our usual diner for our weekly Saturday morning family breakfast, Eliza decided she wanted to take part in the conversation, so she kept saying, “So, um … “.  This she has picked up from me.  I think I start most conversations this way.  I would judge this to be neither good nor bad, but a sort of annoying habit (of mine).  Then there are the imitations you wish you didn’t know came from you.

Eliza and I were making hazelnut gelato this morning.  She wants to help with everything in the kitchen, and I’m embracing this as best I can by having her stand on a stepping stool by me while I prep or cook.  (You can see where this is going.)  She was so helpfully stirring the cream mixture on the stove when she decided that our sweet gelato needed some salt.  She dipped her left hand in the salt bowl I keep next to the stove, and as she lifted her hand to sprinkle a handful into the pot, I stopped her mid-move and said, “Oh, geez, we don’t want salt in our ice cream.  No thank you.  That would be bad” (or something like that).  Yes, she got a little in the pot, but most of it went all over the counter and stove top.  It wasn’t a big disaster.  But my tone and volume made it clear to her this was a no-no.  She looked at me and said, “Dammit.”  I said, “Wha-hut?”  And she said, “Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.  Shoot.  Dammit.”  I started giggling, which is probably not the best way to react to behavior you want to curb.  And as she continued to say it, I then explained to her that “dammit” wasn’t a good word and I was sorry for using it myself.  She probably picked it up  four days ago, when she grabbed my empty glass while I was nursing, started walking away, and after I asked her to bring it back and she didn’t, dropped it on the floor, breaking it into pieces around her bare feet.  Or perhaps she heard it three days ago, when I walked into the kitchen for TEN SECONDS to get my pumping supplies and I heard a crash, and she had knocked over my full cup of coffee onto the floor, breaking the mug and making a huge mess.

The important thing is not how she came to know how to use the word “Damnit,” but that she came to know how to use it.  In the salt mess of this morning, I realized just how much she is learning from me, whether it’s good or bad.  This is the only job I’ve ever had where every word that comes out of my mouth is unforgiving; where someone else’s development into the person he or she is going to be is dependent on my actions.  So, the first thing I’m going to do is switch to “Darnit.”  The second thing I’m going to do is start counting in my head to ten before I say anything after an accident.  She is a toddler and disasters big and small are part of the job.  And third, I’m going to count my lucky stars that at least it’s “Damnit,” and not an uglier word.  At LEAST I have that going for me.