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Girl Gets Maternal

Recently Maddie’s been mimicking one
more thing Mommy does – taking care of Baby.

A couple weeks ago, Brian noticed Maddie walking around with her
baby doll, sounding unhappy. She was holding Baby Doll up to her
shoulder, making a steady, whimery/whiney kind of noise.

Brian said, “Maddie? Are you OK?”

Maddie looked at him, put her finger to her lips, and said,

Apparently Baby Doll was crying, and Maddie was comforting her. A
few pats on the back, and Baby Doll was all better: Maddie smiled,
said “Dah!!” and threw the dolly down on the floor,
walking away.

In recounting the tale to me, Brian was
worried that’s the way Maddie thinks we treat her; all
solicitous loving when she’s crying, then tossing her aside
when she’s better. I reassured him she was just playing, but
of course a nagging fear remained.

Because I’ve read that all children go through this stage
– the Parental Imitation thing. Apparently it’s an
important developmental point, when they start recognizing all the
things we do for them (though still no thank-yous!) and start
learning how to care for themselves. Children will dress, feed, and
bathe their “babies” as practice for growing up.

Madeleine’s maternal instinct hasn’t slowed down; she
now counts Baby Doll, Panda, and of course Elmo amongst her kids.
We now know that when she walks by holding one of them and whining,
we are supposed to say, “Oh, (name), it’s ok.
It’s ok. Maddie’s here.” Maddie shushes them
soothingly, patting them on the back. She strokes their faces,
solemnly touches their body parts and tells them the names –
“Eh! (eye)”. Pretty much the basics of what we do for

I’m wildly impressed at how much she’s noticed in the
way we interact with her – she’ll try to feed a
“child” with her own fork, put shoes on Baby
Doll’s feet, and above all, make that adorable
“shh” sound, little finger planted importantly at her
baby mouth. I’m nervous at how she’ll interact with her
“kids” when we have to start disciplining her, and what
it will say about our parenting style: I’ve heard horror
stories from fellow parents of overhearing conversations between a
toddler and his “baby” that went something like this
– “You have to stay in the corner because you’ve
been bad! It doesn’t matter if you don’t know why! Just
stay there until my head stops hurting!”

Ah, the stuff guilt’s made of.

For now, she’ll continue to pass on her basic motor skills,
and keep her “children” dry and well-fed. Just last
night she held her straw cup up to Elmo’s mouth, made
lip-smacking drinking sounds, then held the cup away as she said,
“Ah!” – a perfect rendition of the way she
herself drinks.

Maybe she doesn’t need to pass on everything her daddy
has taught her.


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