March 8, 2020

Sara Rusniak

Running with Rusniak: Leadership Lessons from a Toddler, Volume 2: Stop Sharing My Secrets!

Leadership Lesson

My default personality leans toward being serious. I use sarcasm pretty regularly to add some levity to situations. Still, my general demeanor is to think that everything is a big deal and urgent. I feel as though everything is mission-critical and needs to be done right this minute.

I’m “Type A” to a fault—driven by productivity and efficiency. I believe these characteristics make me a valuable member of a team from a professional standpoint. However, as a mom, I find that sometimes they make my days at home with my three-year-old daughter very challenging. Not only do my quirks occasionally test my own sanity, but they are also projected through my toddler.

Imitation is the Sincerest (But Not Always an Ideal) Form of Flattery  

My daughter has inherited 50 percent of her DNA from me, and, as toddlers do, she chooses to mimic her mom’s behaviors. So, there is no doubt that she’ll exhibit some of my personality traits—good and bad—as she continues to grow and develop. Some days, having a child is like looking into a mirror, and the reflection is not always pretty.

I’ve definitely mellowed out a bit since having my daughter. I used to be one of those crazy people who couldn’t go to bed until all of the dishes in the sink were clean and put away. For quite some time now, I’ve been able to sleep at night, even when knowing a mess will be waiting for me in the kitchen in the morning. Still, though, I like to walk around the house to “tidy up” for a few moments after putting my daughter to sleep at night. My daughter’s eyes are always watching me (and her ears are always listening)—hence, one of her favorite activities is “tidying up” around the house. I find she enjoys this game most often while I’m in the kitchen preparing a meal. She races around the house as she picks up things and puts them where they belong. If dinner is ready and we’re waiting for her to eat, she’ll say, “I’m just tidying up. Hang on! I just need to do one more thing.” I love having a little mini-me in the house who helps to keep it organized, but I cringe when I hear her say that she can’t join us for dinner until she finishes.

Before my daughter started mimicking my less-than-desirable organizational OCD, she started repeating what she heard me say. Her vocabulary continues to grow, and like every toddler, she sometimes shares aloud some phrases that catch me by surprise. For example, my favorite incident occurred inside a busy public restroom at the library. She enthusiastically said from our stall, “I see someone’s cute little hiney!” as I stood up from using the toilet. For a split second, I was embarrassed. But I quickly found the humor in the situation and cracked up—partly because of her adorable enthusiasm and partly because of the flattering notion that someone thinks my “hiney” is little. While it was an embarrassing moment, it was also incredibly sweet. My daughter was showing her affection for me in a way that imitated what she hears me playfully say as she’s getting dressed each day.

One of our humorous daily exchanges is when I tell her to “stop sharing my secrets!” I say this after she repeats something that she heard me say or when she mimics my behavior. I’m (half) joking when I recite it, and she giggles every time. Usually, her imitation of me is sweet (such as when it involves a comment about a cute hiney). But it concerns me other times (such as when she slams a door because she’s mad at her baby doll for not listening). That makes me realize I have to do better at controlling my behavior and emotions around someone so impressionable.

The Moral of the Story: Someone is Noticing What You Say and How You Act

Whether you have children or not, there are always eyes watching and ears listening. They could belong to current clients, potential customers, employers, or would-be employers. In my last blog post, I discussed authenticity and the benefits of being real around one another. There are also benefits in exerting censorship and control of your words and actions—not for the sake of hiding something real but for self-improvement.

Your Turn!

After writing this post, I feel more motivated to put forth more of my favorable qualities. And I hope that the heir to my household imitates them rather than my less-than-desirable characteristics.

I also wish that this post has given you some helpful food for thought. Someone is always watching and learning from you. Are you projecting your best genuine qualities?

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