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Matthew Girard column: Learning from your parents

Matthew Girard
More Content Now
Cheboygan Daily Tribune

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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As parents, we all understand that our children’s minds are like little sponges. Especially in the early years, they absorb all the information around them and actively try to make sense of it. Eventually, they begin to mimic how you move and how you speak.

I’ll admit when my daughter was young, I wasn’t always the best about “watching my mouth,” as my mother would remind me from time to time. My daughter wasn’t exactly speaking coherently in those early days, so I figured I had time to “clean up” my words in certain situations before she started repeating them.

By the time she was around 2 1/2, I learned it was time to initiate the cleanup. One day while we were enjoying a family meal and some relaxing time, my daughter was toddling around picking up toys and other odds and ends for her latest collection. While the adults were conversing, she walked out of her playroom with an arm full of stuff - she’s always been a get-all-the-grocery-bags-in-one-trip kind of girl - and suddenly there was a clanging of said stuff bouncing around on the floor. As we all look over, my daughter throws her hands in the air, then calmly and matter-of-factly said, “Ah, (insert expletive for manure).”

As we attempted to not draw attention to her slip by holding in the belly laughs as we helped her pick up her things, I realized she had heard that exact saying many, many times coming from my mouth. I knew then, despite her using such a term in context, it was time to being mindful of my language. Since that day, I’ve tried my best to use less abrasive words in the heat of the moment or when I’ve just needed to use a curse word (I know I’m not the only one).

Although I’ve been confident that my word choices have been less abrasive since, I have come to learn that I still have some improvements to make while in a moving vehicle. While road rage isn’t a thing for me, I’ve been known to voice my displeasure at certain drivers whom I thought didn’t deserve a license - loudly and with my daughter in the vehicle, but making sure to not use any “trigger” words she would take to school with her the next day.

My daughter hasn’t been with me while I’ve been driving much since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but she did recently get her own set of wheels on her 7th birthday - her first “big girl” bicycle. Soon enough my daughter mastered riding on two wheels and was joining the kids around the neighborhood on short-distance bike rides - with me close by to offer encouragement or direction.

On one bike ride, my daughter was cruising along down the street when two of her friends zoomed past her, startling her and forcing her to come to a stop.

Calmly and matter-of-factly, my daughter took off her helmet and said, “Hey, Jack, you need to refill your blinker fluid!”

Matthew Girard is a columnist for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at mgirard@gannett.com.