My very tired body was fast asleep, right next to my baby, when the sound of my name woke me up.

Okay, let me rephrase. The word that rang out, in the silence of the night, didn’t come out exactly right. Actually, it was the baby version of my name. Yes, my baby whom we had been trying to get to sound (not say) simple words like mama and dada had taken the more complicated route instead. He had jumped like twenty steps to call out my four-syllable name, using his own customized language.

To be honest, that night, I was too tired to analyse what had happened. All I could think of, as I drifted back to sleep, was that my son had finally started letting out some form of coherent babble, all thanks to my niece, whom he had been spending quite some time with.

You see, my 17-month old niece was responsible for my son’s ignorant disregard of culture. Yes, despite a 1001 corrections, she had consistently insisted on throwing away the ‘aunty’ prefix from my name. So, despite our huge age gap, she had kicked off our relationship on a reciprocated first-name basis.
Anyway, back to my story…By the next morning, I dismissed the previous night’s ‘incidence’. I told myself that maybe I had only been hearing things. You know, imagining that my son had finally figured out how to communicate using actual words. Yes, maybe I had only been hearing what I had been eagerly waiting for – coherent babbles.

However, it wasn’t long before my little champ corrected my premature conclusion. That’s right!!! Without warning, he was suddenly blurting out his new four-syllable word at will. Obviously, this didn’t escape the notice of people as they began to independently ask, ‘Is that your name he is saying?’ Yes, their questions were enough confirmation that on that first night, I hadn’t been hearing things. Actually, I had heard just right.

Okay, I am not worried about what is presently going on because I know that with time, it will be corrected. However, what I would want to bring to our attention is the fact that this incidence is proof that even though children may be somewhat bad at taking instructions, they are perfect imitators.

Really, if both the adults and the children around were calling me Aunty XYZ, my niece would have been more likely to call me Aunty XYZ as well. However, what happened was that the adults called me XYZ and then told her to call me something different.

With such contradicting instructions, can we really blame her for going the copy-cat route. The same goes for my son. He was only learning ‘fast’ from his fellow playmate.

So, with that said, during this never-ending parenting journey, we have embarked on, how can we be sure that our children do not cross important moral, cultural, religious, etc. lines? How can we make sure that, growing up, they stay on the ‘right’ side of the line?

Well, the truth is that we have got to go beyond just talking to our children. We have to roll up our sleeves and show them what we mean. We have to walk the talk. Yes, we must be careful that our actions are in synch with our words because at the end of the day, if they are forced to make a choice, they are more likely to copy what we do and not necessarily do what we say.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at