I have always hated the game Simon Says. For those of you unfamiliar with this frustrating activity, let me break it down for you. It’s a childhood game where someone stands before you and a group of people pretending to be “Simon.” Simon then gives out a bunch of actions for you to follow prefacing each statement with “Simon Says”. The commands get faster until eventually Simon slips in a direction without saying “Simon Says” first. A handful of people rush to obey only for Simon to point them out and say “Simon didn’t say! You’re out!”
This game never set well with me. It was probably because I was usually the girl who quickly got eliminated. It just didn’t seem fair. Here I was struggling to keep up and listen to Simon, only to be cast out of the game. Oh the injustice! LIfe was cruel and my poor little 8 year old heart just couldn’t take it.
The days of plotting out my revenge on Simon are over. I’m a grown woman now. I’m married and a mom of two beautiful little girls. In the midst of the random silly things I catch my kids doing, I began to notice something else. I’d be sitting on the couch and cross my arms because I was cold. I looked over at my oldest sitting next to me and realized she was now crossing her arms too. When I was trying to figure something out I’d make this “hmm” noise. Suddenly across the room I would hear her sweet voice mimic “hmm” back. I’d be resting my head in my hands only to notice her looking over at me smiling doing the same.
Naturally, I find these actions of hers amusing. However, there are moments when the weight of it really hits me. Recently, my husband and I were watching her sleep, quietly laughing about all of the cute things she copied us doing that day. The room fell silent for a minute. I turned to him, tears in my eyes and said “It’s a little scary.” He nodded back solemnly and said “I know.”
In that moment, we realized that parenting isn’t a game of Simon Says. Most of us have heard the saying “ Do as I say, not as I do.” If only it were that simple. It’s easy to encourage my kids, to imitate my appropriate responses and then come down on them hard when they imitate my bad ones. “Mommy didn’t say. Mommy taught you better then that.” It turns out kids are more influenced by actions than our words.
I’m fully aware that no parent is perfect. It can be a little intimidating to teach a child right, when there are many times I get it wrong. This hasn’t discouraged me, but rather inspired me. Lately, I find myself asking questions. “What actions am I regularly putting out there for my children to imitate? What directions am I living out in front of them that they are following even though I never officially taught them to behave that way?”
As a parent, I can discipline my children to not throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. But how do I respond when I don’t get mine? My daughter throwing a fit over having to wait two minutes for a bowl of cheerios is no different than me having a meltdown because I got caught by a train in traffic. How do I respond when she makes a mistake? Better yet, how do I respond when I make a mistake? Do I belittle myself? Do I proclaim that I can’t do anything right? How do I respond when the checkout clerk rings me up twice for an item? Do I let her have it? If so, I just taught my daughter that failure is not an option.
Do I value who I am? Or do I constantly critique myself? If I do, then I just taught my daughter that she doesn’t have value unless she’s perfect. I am unintentionally saying that a standard of being flawless is an expectation that I have of myself, therefore I expect that of her. Am I afraid to be vulnerable and transparent? Do I mask issues of hurt with anger? Do I pretend nothing is wrong when something clearly is? If I do, I just taught my child, that our issues are meant to be buried and not dealt with.
I know I’ve already made a buttload of mistakes and I’m fairly new to this parenting thing. Its imperative however, that I’m truly aware of my influence. It’s important to allow myself to fail, then get up and try again. It’s necessary to go after my dreams when others say its impossible. It’s crucial that as an adult I show my children the value of being transparent and vulnerable. It goes beyond me. There is a younger generation of eyes watching.
Parent or not, we need to realize that to someone we are “Simon.” And it really doesn’t matter if Simon says so or not, people are affected by you. Every single one of us have a choice in our daily actions to inspire the change we want to see in our world by being it. Do you wish people in this world would be more real? Be transparent yourself and I guarantee you’ll look over to find someone finally feeling free to do the same. Wish people were more kind? Be relentless in your kindness and watch how it affects the people around you. Be the leader you were born to be. Show love. Be a light. Then pause a moment and look over to see just how much brighter this world has become.