I've recently discovered a parrot living in my home.
The repeating, mimicking sort of parrot that makes you want to yank your hair out and also laugh until there are tears rolling down your cheeks.
The kind of parrot that picks up anything and everything you've recently said and throws it back into your face while not really understanding what he's repeating. Thankfully.
The parrot's name is Henry.
"Mommy, I see Santa!"
"No buddy, that's just a man with a long beard."
"Nooooooo, that's Santa," he yells while pointing until we disappear inside the store.
"What's his name?", he asks as he nearly pokes a man in the eye as he walks by.
"I'm not sure buddy, why don't you ask him?" Man laughs and walks off.
We're at the age now where his questions are more frequent, his mimicking better practiced, his brain working faster than his mouth so he often gets stuck on a word as he tries to spit it out. His frustration is exacerbated, too, when our lack of understanding gets in the way.
"I want to take a bath."
"You WANT to take a bath?"
"Noooo, I don't WANT to take a bath."
It's a constant game of back and forth. Understanding and not. Parroting to be clear.
I sit near him on the cold driveway pavement. He runs to the tree and back and to the tree and back.
"I got you a leaf, Mommy!"
And then I see the glimmer of mischief in his eyes. He starts to hand me a leaf and instead yanks it back, tearing it in two, laughing hysterically as he knows what is coming.
"I ripped it! I ripped your leaf, Mommy!"
Gasp! "I can't believe that! I'm so sad," I say with all of the dramatics I can muster.
He goes and gets another, handing it to me to make amends. I rip it in two, laughing the way he did. He immediately stops and puts on his best frown face.
"Don't do that! You hurt my feelings!"
My own parroting has gone awry. I vow to never do it again.
"Mommy, how much do you love me?"
"THIS MUCH", I say stretching my arms out as far as they will go.
"Whoa. That's a lot."
There are moments when I'm sure to regret what I've said because of the little parrot attached to my leg. I'm sure to let a word or an idea or a comment slip that will then be perfectly repeated back to me, letting me know that what I said was probably not what I should have said.
And it's in these moments I'll be grateful for the little parrot. To remind me to think before I speak. To think about how my words sound to others. To recognize the impact my words will have on his own.
This little parrot is the perfect reminder to be kind, gentle, and thoughtful in a world that is so often not.