Touch of Spice

The mothering gene

Katie's in the "little mother" stage. I'm not sure if that's the result of having a little sister or if it's a natural progression. What I am sure of is that it's a direct reflection of my parenting skills. I'm assuming how she treats her "baby" is based on the experience of how I've treated her.

Gosh, I'm good.

She is so sweet to whatever toy she's decided is her baby that day (and it doesn't have to be a toy. In the bathtub, the washcloth is her baby).

Katie talks to her babies in what I've termed "her nice voice" -- high-pitched but softly spoken and always reassuring.

"Is OK," she tells her baby while patting it on the back.

"Thas OK," is another common phrase, one she picked up from telling me she's sorry for something and me responding, "that's OK."

She puts her baby in the stroller and takes it for walks, wraps her tightly for nap time and makes sure she has a bottle when she's hungry.

Then, out of the blue, she'll pitch the doll at Nikki.

I'm not really sure where that came from, but I've decided that specific action doesn't reflect directly on my parenting skills.

Katie also tries to mother her sister, but isn't nearly as gentle.

"Mikki don't!" is a phrase heard often around our house.

Mikki ... I mean Nikki ... doesn't really take kindly to her sister's bossiness.

It's funny that Nikki is the only baby that doesn't get Katie's full devotion. Nikki's the only baby that gets in "trouble."

It's probably because Nikki is the only baby that doesn't do exactly what Katie wants.

Nikki isn't the only live baby Katie's been able to practice on, which really encourages her to develop her skills as a mother.

During a recent weekend at the ranch, it was discovered that two very small kittens had made their home underneath our cabin.

We named one Notta -- when my husband was asked to come up with a name, he got the subtle hint to take one home. That didn't go over well and he said "Not a Currie."

Thus she got a name, but not a home.

Anyway, Katie was instantly enthralled. She likes most animals -- but from a distance. Cats are the only exception. For some reason, she's got a clear affinity there -- despite the number of times she's been scratched in her zeal.

Well, it was the one visit that we weren't running herd on Katie the whole time. She pretty much stayed in front of the cabin the whole weekend.

The kitten wasn't real appreciative. Especially because Katie and Nikki fought over her.

They've really not learned about "gentle" squeezing.

When the second kitten was found, it evened things out. At least for the girls.

In our attempt to give the kittens a break -- and time to breath freely -- we suggested to Katie that she let the kittens take a nap.

Instead of a solution, that created a whole host of other problems. Each time the (not really tired) kittens left their refuge under the deck. Katie stuffed them back in. Again, not so gently.

I wasn't really surprised to find the kittens -- and their mother --were missing on our next trip out.

Clearly, they felt they would be much more content in a new home.

I don't blame them.

It's really very sweet how much Katie wants to be in charge and be a mother, but it's disconcerting to see her reflect my words and mannerisms.

That she's so kind is a balm on my heart. That her "babies" don't get spanked or yelled out reassures me, but the time will come when she realizes that real babies don't always do what you want them to and there's more to mothering than putting a baby to sleep. There are lessons to be taught, cuts to be healed, tears to be dried and discipline to be dealt.

I hope I model ways to do all tenderly and lovingly.

After all, it's my grandchildren who will benefit or suffer from my decisions now.

Katie proves that each time she uses my words, my expressions and my tactics on her "babies."

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