Sometimes, while lying in bed, enjoying those last few moments of quiet, tranquil sleep before the day abruptly turns upside down and launches into fast-forward, the sweet, welcoming smell of waffles makes its way to my nostrils. It’s not my husband preparing his morning meal or making a special breakfast in bed for me. (He’s still under the covers, also hanging on to every last moment of slumber.) It’s my son—my 4-year-old little boy.
Neither my husband nor I have taught our toddler how to make breakfast for himself. And yet, he knows exactly what to do to prepare that chocolate-chip Eggo. He carefully slides his plastic, green chair next to the refrigerator, opens the freezer door, and digs out the waffle of choice. He then scoots the toaster toward the edge of the counter, pops in his waffle, and pushes down the button for it to warm up and crisp. He grabs the chocolate milk from the refrigerator, finds his favorite sippy cup, pours in the milk, and then deftly secures the plastic stopper and the top. When his waffle “pops,” he grabs a paper plate from the cabinet, pulls a paper towel off the roll by the sink, and waits for the food to cool down enough so he can carefully fish it out with his fingers. He then proceeds to the family room where he turns on the TV so he can watch a Lego cartoon on Netflix while enjoying his hot meal.
I mention this peculiar family ritual to demonstrate an important point that most parents know quite well: children learn by observing. Those little eyes and ears are on us all the time. In fact, despite our best efforts, they very rarely miss a thing. This is one reason why many moms and dads spell out certain words or hold their tongues in front of little ones. The choice expressions that may slip out now and again with that stubbed toe or spilled milk can easily make their way into a child’s vocabulary. Similarly, what we do as parents with our day-to-day activities is what our children watch, learn… and emulate. For this reason, my husband and I are always very cautious about how we talk about, care for, store, and handle the firearms in our home.
There’s no doubt that we spend a lot of time teaching our three children about gun safety and constantly reminding them about the basic rules for firearms. But we also keenly remember that actions DO speak louder than words—especially for kids. We know that our son is watching every move, and what he sees, believes, or perceives to be the “right” way to do things will likely become what he does himself. So, the behaviors we demonstrate around guns will ultimately become part of how he talks about, cares for, stores, and handles firearms. He’s certainly proven this with his morning waffle routine. It’s a healthy reminder for us to always do the right thing, even when we think no one is watching.