All too often when Laylee opens her mouth, I hear myself mirrored back in a somewhat unflattering way. One day we actually had this conversation:
If this is my mirror, I'm doing alright
Me: Laylee, It's time to go to bed.
Laylee: No. You're never allowed to say that.
Me: I'm pretty much allowed to say anything I want, Bud, and it's bedtime.
Laylee: NO! That's not the truth.
Me: THAT is not the truth. I was telling the truth. You need to come to bed.
Laylee: You're not allowed to say that to me.
Me: Stop saying that.
Me: You're not allowed to talk to me like that.
So, what I'm saying is: She's not allowed to say that I'm not allowed to say certain things but I'm allowed to tell her that she's not allowed to tell me that.
Laylee has also been known to inform me that something I am doing is "inappropriate"; to exclaim, "Oh my word!" at the various things that give her displeasure; and to put all her dolls in time-out using a tone of voice Mussolini would find frightening.
Every day she proves that she is listening, really listening, and that what I say to her, and how I say it, are helping to shape the kind of person she will become. From me, my daughter has gained a loving nature, a dramatic flare for storytelling, a twisted sense of humor, and a strong desire to be right and in control of the situation.
I frequently struggle with how to discipline her without molding her into the world's smallest dictator. I worry that I spend too much time correcting and not enough time reinforcing all the amazing stuff she does.
Then she shows me that maybe I've done a few things right. Yesterday as I was handing her a drink, she said, "Mom, can I please have a new sippy cup lid? This one doesn't work." She then put her hand on my arm and continued, "Lots of times you give me great sippy cup lids that totally work, but this one just doesn't. Can I please have another one?"
Suddenly I was standing in a puddle of my own heart. Who reaches out and tells her mom that she's really good at choosing functional lids for baby dishes most of the time, that this unfortunate case must have simply been a freak accident with a very simple solution? My daughter. That's who.
She tells me often how proud I make her and how beautiful I am. She loves me and I know it because she says it out loud, and — thanks to my mom's influence — she likes to hold my hand and exclaim, "You and me babe!"
We really are in this together. I teach her by example and then she shows me which of my examples to eradicate from my repertoire.