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The value of seeing ourselves through our children’s eyes

Girl looking up at parent

ChameleonsEye | Shutterstock

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 09/04/23

Those little eyes watching and little ears listening push me to try harder every day, to speak more kindly and use my time better.

One day my daughter walked up to me holding a baby doll and a book. 

“Look, Mom, I’m you!” she laughed.My book club is reading Anne of Green Gables.”

I smiled at the unintended compliment. She sees reading for book club while holding a baby as integral to who I am, and I don’t disagree. Not a bad way to be perceived in imitation at all. 

But another time, my toddler waved a plastic toy phone and said, “I mama! I have phone!” That made me cringe. I hope my kids don’t perceive me as glued to my phone!

Have you ever tried to see yourself through your children’s eyes? Nobody knows us better, our follies and foibles, and also our greatest strengths and acts of love. 

Children as mirror

My kids show me what they think of me all the time. They love to play “family,” and I listen a little more closely to hear what the “mom” character is saying. I hear my own words reflected in their play, for good or ill.

Knowing how closely they are watching inspires me to be my best self. When my kids pretend they are exercising or pause to pray, I feel like I’m doing something right. But when I hear them repeat something angry I said, I feel a quick pull to do better next time.

Seeing my kids imitate me feels almost like an examination of conscience, as their play holds up a mirror to my good and bad habits. 

Psychologists say that the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice, and I think of that whenever I hear their voices repeating something I said. 

Shaping by example

Those little eyes watching and little ears listening push me to try harder every day, to speak more kindly and use my time better. 

Motherhood has been a long school of patience and humility for me, but when I feel discouraged, I remember that my example is shaping the people I love the most. 

I want to do my very best for them, so that the imitations they make of me are closer and closer to an imitation of Christ

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