Touch of Spice: The original copycats

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Even her teachers comment, 5-year-old Nikki writes her name very well.

Sometimes I am surprised.

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Sometimes I am not.

Part of it is because I watch my children try so hard to be little adults. I hear my voice, my tone, my inflection when 6-year-old Katie tells her sister to hurry up and get dressed, when she exclaims, "dagnabit!" when she sighs, "I'm just too tired!"

No one, not even my parents, scrutinized my every move the way my children do.

They say each of us has a double somewhere. I think, that when you have children, you have a double, even a triple, sometimes.

Nikki writes her name well because she concentrates so intensely on copying -- exactly -- the way the teacher has written it on the practice sheet.

And that changes from week to week.

This week, the final line in the "N" is longer than the apex. So each of Nikki's "N"s are written that way. When I tell her that her "K"s should have straight lines, she argues they were written with a hook -- kind of like an "H" with an added line.

I can't seem to convince her modifications are OK only after you learn the right way of doing it and understand how to make it both unique and readable.

Watching her add just a little bit to make her letters exactly like the teacher's kind of made me squirm. My kids are at that age (I guess all kids, all ages are) when they're watching adults very closely, learning, mimicking and internalizing.

I'm a little overwhelmed by the challenge. Never have my words, my actions and my values (not just what I say, but what I do) had so much weight.

I was daunted by the enormity of it all until I glanced out the kitchen window and saw Katie jumping on the trampoline while wearing footed pajamas underneath her two-piece swim suit. She was wearing snow boots, too.

That was not something I modeled. Nor endorsed.

I've got a burden, there's no doubt about that. All parents do.

I still have to make good choices and instill firm values, but at the end of the day, that will only be the foundation. My children will make their own choices and build their own future.

They will, despite all of my influence, be individuals.

That scares me, too.

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