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GAIL WHITE Children's experiences leave a clear image



Published: Fri, January 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



David, our 3-year-old, was standing in front of the full-length mirror.

"Are you talkin' to me?" he asked the image.

As the youngest of four boys, he has a bit of an attitude. But this wasn't said with attitude. He was truly asking a question to the boy he was looking at.

I stood several feet behind him, watching this curious preschooler discover himself.

After a few minutes of questioning his mirror image, he spied my reflection in the mirror.

"Hey Mom, you in there?" he asked the mirror.

I laughed and responded, "No, I'm over here."

He twirled around to find me standing behind him.

"No, you in there," he said, completely confused.

"That's a mirror," I tried to explain. "You and I are right here. That's just like a picture of us," I struggled with the words.

"No, you in there," David concluded, completely unaware that the little boy he saw was himself.

Other mirror images: As I marveled over the workings of his child's mind, I remembered back to the other children's mirror discoveries.

Our oldest son, Robert, liked the boy he saw in the mirror so much, he kissed him. We have photos of him, nose smashed against the hard surface, slobber dripping down the glass.

I have Phillip's mirror encounter written down in a ragged old notebook.

A very happy and carefree child, Phillip came bouncing into the bedroom one day, saw a happy, carefree child looking back at him and proclaimed, "Wow, dat wooks wike me!"

Underneath Phillip's mirror encounter in the notebook is Andrew's.

Being a child of a more serious sort, Andrew had a stare-down with the mirror one morning. He concluded, "Dat wooks wike Phibbip!" (He has since overcome his identity crisis.)

Records not kept: In the busy whirlwind of motherhood, I have neglected to record my children's first teeth, the day of their first steps, their first doctor visits and family trip.

I resorted to stuffing their baby books in the bottom of a box, tucked in the back of the attic, as they were a constant reminder of my failure to record my children's history.

Thinking about that now, I don't feel so bad.

I don't really care about the exact day their first teeth came in.

I am glad that I recorded the time my father-in-law asked Robert how many teeth he had.

Robert pointed to his mouth and responded, "This many. But I can't take them out and put them on the sink shelf like you."

I don't necessarily need to remember the date of their first steps.

None of us can remember the date David took his first step, but we all remember it was at a Mr. Chicken restaurant. We went crazy with excitement.

Bath stories: There is no record of baby's first bath at our house.

But I remember the time Phillip and Andrew cried hysterically because they thought they were going to go down the drain.

And then there's the time Robert announced that he could not take a bath because "My bummy has a crack in it."

Most recently, though I don't recall the exact date, piercing screams from the bathroom brought the family running, only to find David with his back against the wall, steering clear of an attack poopy. (Like his image in the mirror, he doesn't know his own poopy when he sees it, either.)

It is these precious snippets of childhood discovery that I cherish most.

They are not planned, well thought-out activities to be logged and cross-referenced later.

They are the little things that happen in between the planned, well thought-out activities.

And they add the greatest spice to life.

The dates may be blurry, or completely forgotten, but the memories are as clear as the reflection in a mirror.

gwhite@vindy.com




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