As my wife and I muddle through our day-to-day routines, we try our very best to lead by example for our young children. After all, monkey see, monkey do is the perfect idiom for life as a parent. Little eyes are constantly watching our every move and duplicating our habits with limited concern for consequences.
We model the biggies: Never swear in front of the kids—how embarrassing it is to have unnecessary colorful language repeated at church or in the grocery check-out line. We serve fruits or veggies at every meal, and slicing, dicing, and cubing are always a team effort. We always buckle up in the car and try to never speed. Tiny backseat drivers are quick to point out those California stops and are eager to remind us that the police are always watching!
But it isn’t just the big social norms that our kids observe; they watch our mundane daily tasks, too. We recently discovered this at our house, after shoes began disappearing.
My wife Nicole purchased three new pairs of shoes for our two-year-old daughter Lyla: some girly sandals and a couple pairs of new tennis shoes for running around the park—about 60 bucks total. After a week of sporting her new kicks, one by one, the shoes began disappearing. We searched the house over and over, turning our place upside down, checking every corner and crevasse for the missing footwear. Even a sweep of the backyard and the garage turned up zilch in the sneaker department.
We quizzed Lyla as to the whereabouts of the disappearing shoes. But interviewing our two-year-old is like asking a new puppy where his ball is. She just stared back with her head tilted to one side with a quizzical look.
So where had the shoes gone?
One afternoon, I was watching television in our living room when Lyla toddled in. She grabbed the TV remote and then walked back into the kitchen. I quietly got up and snuck around the corner to see what she was doing with the remote. I watched as she scampered over to our stainless steel kitchen trash can, pushed her little foot down on the lid opener, and tossed the remote into the garbage.
Our little mystery had just been solved.
Turns out, Lyla had been watching the normal day-to-day routine of us throwing away trash and took it upon herself to start tossing items from around the house. Only she hadn’t yet learned what was and what wasn’t trash.
Somewhere in a Waste Management facility are three pairs of perfectly good size 7 shoes waiting to be turned into compost—along with who knows what else Lyla decided to surreptitiously toss.
A trip back to the store and three new pairs of shoes later, we’re keeping a close eye on all shoe-related activity in our house.
It’s hard to be mad at her since all she was doing was observing mom and dad using the trash can during our normal daily routine. I guess in the end, we did get a pretty darn good family story out of the whole fiasco - and as I scan the room while writing this I apologize, I must quickly wrap up. I can’t seem to spot my stapler, cell phone, iPad, or the cat! I’ll be up in the kitchen if you need me.
Featured In Colorado Parent Magazine September 2017