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Monkey See, Monkey Do

My kids are two years and three months apart. This has been really good spacing for my kids (although it can be rough sometimes on us parents). They get along really well. This makes me more happy that I can adequately express. I know that this is not the situation for all families. And I don't know if it will last, but it's absolutely heart-meltingly awesome to see my kids play together, hug each other, care for each other and generally enjoy each other.

Of course, they don't always get along. They fight and bicker and scream at each other and mess with each other. They are still siblings, after all. And I never want to put some rose-colored view of parenthood on this blog. But probably 80-90% of the time, they get along really well. They love each, and they love to do things together.

The Pumpkin is the oldest at almost 4.5, and she is used to taking charge. It's not that she is bossy, because she's really not bossy at all. It's more that she comes up with ideas of what she wants to do and she does them. Usually it is something really active and imaginative, and it looks like a lot of fun. So other kids tend to want to do what she's doing. And even if no one else wants to do what she's doing? She does it anyway. She loves to play with others, especially her brother, so she will encourage people to join her, but she won't stop her game if no one else is joining in. But because she has so much fun doing fun things, kids often join in. Especially her brother.

The Pookie is almost 2 years and 3 months old, and he loves to join in just about whatever his sister is doing. Not just because it looks fun, and not just when she encourages him to join her. Pretty much whatever she is doing, whenever she is doing them. Even when it's something she shouldn't be doing.

I'm sure you've seen the same behavior in action, perhaps in your own house or those of your family and friends.

In our house, we call this common and well-known phenomenon Monkey See, Monkey Do. The monkey in both cases is usually my son, though it can be my daughter as well. The Pookie sees his sister doing something or acting some way, and he does the same. I will then refer to him as Monkey Boy. And he will respond by saying, "oo oo ah ah." (It's very cute.)

The Monkey See, Monkey Do phenomenon can be a wonderful thing. When the Pumpkin is listening and helping clean up and sitting at the table for dinner and doing the things she's supposed to be doing, the Pookie follows right along! He listens, he behaves, he helps clean. But when the Pumpkin is acting up and misbehaving and not listing and not doing what she's supposed to? Well, Monkey See, Monkey Do. Which means it's TWO children misbehaving and having tantrums and killing us parents!

We have pointed out to the Pumpkin that her brother will do whatever she is doing, so she needs to be careful about what she does in front of him. This is especially the case when she is able to physically do things that he can't, because the situation can become unsafe. And she is starting to take that to heart.

However, we do worry about putting too much pressure on her modifying her behavior because of what her brother might do. That's just doesn't seem fair to a young child. So there is a balance somewhere that we are trying to find.

And I'm sure at some point the Pookie will not want to do anything his sister is doing. He certainly doesn't always do what she's doing now or want to play with her all the time. He does like to do play on his own (something my daughter almost never wants to do), sitting quietly and contently with his train set or blocks or books. And there are plenty of times that the Pumpkin will join in whatever he is playing and doing.

I'll take the Monkey See, Monkey Do phenomenon, even when they are both acting up and driving me crazy. I'm just so happy that my kids get along and like to do what the other is doing. Yes, it can make for some difficult parenting moments, but as I've even told my daughter before, they are siblings and should be on each others' sides. And if I'm yelling at them? They should especially be there for each other and support each other*. I didn't say this part, but I'd rather they bond together, even against us parents, than be divided from each other.

And isn't imitation the best form of flattery?

*This was when my daughter started mimicking me and yelled at her brother, who then yelled back at her. That's not the Monkey See, Monkey Do that I want to encourage. More a situation of Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Comments

hush said…
My kids are 22 months apart. It sucked when DD was an infant and DS was a rambunctious, climbing, jumping, running off into traffic 2-year-old. Just getting both of them alive through each day was a success, and my marriage was the worst it has ever been (not coincidentally).

But I love the good moments, no, I LIVE for those good moments. Like today, when DD was tantruming, I tried for 15 painful minutes to soothe her then literally had to walk away and leave her on the floor screaming because she did not want me. It was DS who calmed her down and redirected her to play upstairs with him. He was awesome. Their bond is such a joy to me. Makes the shitty times worth it.

When it is good, it really is so good.

Funny, DD is the exact age now that DS was when she was born. And she seems still in many ways to be a baby.
SarcastiCarrie said…
I struggle as well with how much pressure to put on my older child w/r/t being a role model for his younger brother. My kids are older though and have a larger age spacing. Chuckles is 6.25-yo and in 1st grade and Bobo is 2.75-yo (and yes, he does seem much younger than his brother was at this same age).

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