Rain falls, encasing the ground in a coffin of ice. Footing proves treacherous. You must hold handrails to progress, must cling to the car as you chip chunks from the windows and around the door. The cold bites your cheeks and nose, but soon the comforts of a warmed car envelop you.
You see your daughter safely inside, mittened hands covering her ears. She rocks like a metronome, marking time unattended, each moment a mini-torture. She rips the knitted cap from her head, throws the mittens to the floor, and wraps her fingers in her hair, twirling the dark mane until it rips from her head and sprinkles her lap. This defines her hairstyles. She wants long, flowing “princess” hair, but with lengthening, she pulls more and creates bald spots on her head. So, her hair is kept short.
You open the door. “Please stop that,” you remind her. She pauses, finger knotted in a mini-tornado of brunette. “Listen to the music. I won’t be long. I promise.” She takes her finger out of her hair, but before the door latches, she’s twirling again. She startles with the door’s closing, high muscle tone locking her legs out.
You accompany the littlest over your home’s handicapped accessible bridge. You prevent him from falling twice. The interior of the car feels toasty and welcoming. He latches himself in his car seat. Your daughter reaches over and flips his ears out of his hat. “Stop that!” he protests, but she ignores him.
“Stop,” I say.
With a devilish half-smile, she continues. I grab her hand. “Look at me,” I demand. “Stop bothering your brother.”
Her eyes shy away like a skittish horse. I sigh and set her hands in her lap.
The song changes. “Little Drummer Boy.”
“This song makes me cry, Momma,” she says.
“Me too,” he says.
“Because it is sad.”
“Jesus liked the gift, though. It tells us that everyone has a gift to give, even if they aren’t as grand as gold, frankincense, or myrrh.”
“What is myrrh and frankinstence.”
“Frankincense and myrrh are scents, like expensive incense. We burn it at church during the holiday.”
“Why would a baby want that anyway?”
“I don’t like the smells.”
They both wrinkle their noses. “P-U” my boy flaps his hand in front of his face. “P-U” she imitates.
We drive to the appointment. The other kids run wild, their yelling reverberating from the waiting room walls. She finds a seat in the corner, handing me her crutches. She covers her ears and squeezes her eyes shut. He follows her lead.
Before we step through the parking lot after the appointment, she pauses. “I have an umbrella,” I say.
Her eyes skitter and dance, revealing whites. “Okay,” she whispers.
My little boy mimics her words. They both have their ears covered with their hands.
I worry when he duplicates such behaviors, worry that he might not be copying. When does imitation become a concern, an indication of a problem in him? I fear if he has issues to be addressed, the symptoms may be hidden by what I interpret as playful interpretation of his sister’s habits.
Each child needs personal attention, faces unique challenges. My concern in this, however, is am I overlooking genuine problems because they are couched in imitation. Am I deluding myself into believing all is well, afraid to face more trials, or am I creating concerns where none exist? Either is a possibility, as is any combination thereof.
Parents must always stand vigilant against the world at large, against averse influences, alert for cues within their children and within their own character. I pray that I will be vigilant and alert and not miss matters of importance.
So, I clear my vision with a fresh wash of tears, admonish my own lack of confidence, and steel myself to face the world as presented by my children with squared shoulders and compassionate heart.
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