03/02/2015 03:52 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015

My Baby Girl Mimics My Mothering (And That's Not Always a Good Thing)

Melanie McKinnon

It was a regular day and I'd just laid my baby, Wallace, down for one of his afternoon naps. I headed downstairs, grabbed the laundry, snuck a Diet Pepsi and headed back upstairs to my room.

When I got there, my 3-year-old, Pearl, was standing at the foot of my bed with a regular-sized Barbie and a mini Barbie. She was just playing happily. I laid my laundry down on the bed, grabbed the remote and commenced organizing my mountain of clothes.

Before I flipped on the TV, I again took note of Pearl playing with her dolls and decided to keep the TV off. If she was playing so well without it, there was no need to add something that might distract her, I decided. Feeling pretty proud of myself for encouraging her free play, I continued my task.

After a few minutes, I heard, "Ow!"

I immediately glanced up to see Pearl holding her dolls, but she appeared to be fine. There was no pleading expression or look of distress.

Puzzled, I continued folding. Then, again, "Ow!"

I looked up once more and watched as Pearl played with her dolls.

The Kicker

She had the mini Barbie brushing the big Barbie's hair and every time the mini Barbie swiped, the big Barbie said, "Ow!" Swipe. "Don't do that!" Swipe. "Stop!" Swipe. "You're hurting me!" And so on.

Initially, I laughed, because it's so out of character for her dolls to be mean to each other and it surprised me. Then, I realized that what she was doing was mimicking what she's seen me do to her older sister's hair a thousand times.

Once it sunk in what I was watching, I start to get sad. My Pearl, an innocent 3-year-old, doesn't know that brushing someone's hair is actually supposed to be an affectionate act. Because of my impatience as a mother, she thinks it's the exact opposite.

For whatever reason, I'm not very sensitive to my oldest daughter's pain when I brush her hair. It's curly and crazy and I hate doing it, so I try to get it over with as fast as possible. It's always a disaster and she cries almost every time.

The Lesson

While this is a difficult pill to swallow, I like to try and be open to improving myself as a mother, and this is clearly something that needs to be addressed. I resolve to force myself to slow down when I brush my daughter's hair. I will worry more about the time we're spending together than about the time it takes.

My adorable baby girl, barely broaching the world of full sentences, just taught me something I will never forget. She simply mirrored my own actions, and I did not like what I saw.

I realize my days of not giving my best effort are over. I'm going to have to attempt to scrutinize my actions through my impressionable Pearl's eyes in hopes of becoming a better mother. Every day won't be perfect, but every day I can try harder.

This is not an easy lesson to learn, but I know it's necessary if I'm serious about raising my two girls to be good, patient mothers. I must be one myself to require it of them. And I'm going to try.

Have your kids ever taught you a difficult lesson? What did you learn?

See more from Melanie on her blog, Melanie Meditates.
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