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Mommy's Little Imitator

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Maddie must be buttering me up for something really big.

Madeleine’s always been keenly interested in everything I do; first it was simply to make sure that the “things I do” included enough “pay attention to Maddie” times. But the older she got the more I realized I’m her biggest textbook for life: around nine or ten months Maddie started trying to pick things up with her feet, which, indeed, I do (and you would to if you could – it totally saves your back). Add in how I eat, drink, sit, open a door – the list is endless- and it’s a pretty heavy responsibility.

Lately, though, Maddie’s taken this imitation thing to even greater heights than before. I know part of it’s simply her age, as she starts learning how to fit into society. Part of it, too, is seeing a new dimension to her life as she watches me take care of a baby. There’s even a teeny sliver in there that’s simply her being a girl, and doing girly things.

But part of it’s simply my kid. And for that uniqueness, all I can say is, Thank God for video cameras, and I hope I get her to sign a waiver before she can read.

Where shall I start? My child has become a veritable Mini Me of domesticity. And I’m not just saying that she likes to play in her kitchen, or with her dolls, or whatever. It’s that she likes to do WHATEVER I’M DOING.

If I head to the kitchen to cook, Maddie goes to her kitchen and whips up something – usually pancakes or cupcakes. If the phone rings and I answer, Maddie grabs one of her phones (yes, she has three), calls a friend, and paces around having an imaginary conversation with said friend. This conversation just happens to be whatever I’m saying on my phone conversation.

maddie_turns_2_131.jpgOne day Maddie saw me multitasking – I was wearing Cora in the sling and vacuuming the house. Out comes Maddie’s vacuum. And her sling. And sure enough, there she was, vacuuming the house and wearing her dolly in her sling. Don’t believe me? Check out the photo.

This puts some pressure on me, I assure you. When I eat a meal, Maddie wants to eat exactly what I eat. Which means that Mommy’s eaten more vegetables in the past year than in perhaps the decade before that. And it’s not enough to simply put food on my plate – she watches me like a hawk. I pick up a carrot, she picks up a carrot. I eat a French fry, she eats a French fry. She misses nothing.

One of the good things about all this imitation is how Maddie’s “mothering” of her dolls reveals what sort of things are currently weighing on her mind. Madeleine now has a diaper bag for her dolls with all the necessities. Oh, there are the regular items like pacifier and bottle, but then Maddie’s insisted it be stocked with extras. Remember Madeleine’s month-long initiation into the world of Band-Aids? Mommy has had to make special Band-Aids for Maddie’s dolls (scotch tape and gauze, if you need it) and she puts them on everyone, assuring them they won’t hurt and the owies will feel better. The topper, though, is what comes after the Band-Aids – bunnies. Yes, the cinnamon graham treats we use when Maddie’s got an owie has been replicated for the dolls, thanks to a cereal box cut into tiny bunny shapes and put into a tiny Ziploc bag. Almost every day, out come the bunnies for her “kids”.

Her imitation also serves as a mirror, showing me what kind of mother I’m being. As Maddie rushes around, entertaining herself by mothering her dolls, she keeps up a running monologue. Hearing her tease them, praise them, lecture them, even comfort them about monsters, reminds me that Maddie truly listens to everything I say.

The other day Maddie was making up songs and I was dancing around to them while holding Cora over my shoulder. “I’ll be right back,” Maddie said, walking away. She returned with her Naked Dolly, which she then put over her shoulder before starting to dance with Mommy. Such scenes – such obvious desire to be just like me – really touch me, and let me know I’m doing something right. I’m still in that sweet zone where everything I do is golden, and all harsh words or punishments are quickly forgiven. I see the adoration in her eyes and bask in it, even while I worry – while I know – that I’ll never live up to it. How can I? I know that all too soon she’ll be a teenager, and I’ll see at best, pity, and at worst, thinly veiled contempt or even hatred in her eyes instead. But for now, I cram as much love into this little girl as I can and enjoy seeing her blossom.

Maybe I can teach her to imitate foot massages? No – bad mommy.


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