Jonathan Young

When kids are involved, gifts aren’t the only things exchanged during the holidays. It seems they also trade bad habits.

My 1-year-old daughter has two cousins who were born within weeks of her, and over the holidays the three of them had their first chance to play together as a group.

It was heartwarming and hilarious to watch them hug each other clumsily, often knocking the intended recipient of affection to the floor. Despite some fighting over toys, they mostly enjoyed each other’s company, and they all appreciated the balloons my wife bought. For some reason they also loved the plastic chicken their grandpa placed on the ceiling fan and spun around — they couldn’t get enough of the chicken on the fan.

While they had a tough time sharing toys, they didn’t mind sharing the habits that parents would prefer they didn’t learn.

When my daughter isn’t getting what she wants, she likes to let out a high-pitched, ear-splitting scream. We do our best to patiently remind her to use her words (she’s learned quite a few) and ask her what she wants. But the cousins only picked up on the screeching part. Apparently one of them started trying the tactic at home after spending time with my daughter.

The other cousins shared habits of their own. One cousin is especially adventurous and loves to climb on chairs and tables and get into things we thought were out of reach. It wasn’t long before I noticed the other little ones following his lead.

Although I wished they’d share their helpful habits, instead of the ones that make a parent’s job more challenging, I found it fascinating to watch their little personalities in action, even at such a young age.

The climber is built like a tank and doesn’t talk a lot but is a fearless explorer. The other little cousin will babble on so long you’re sure she’s telling a story in her own little language, but you have no idea what she’s saying; and when she’s upset, she sure knows how to give “the look.” My daughter loves to page through books and bounce along to music and is picking up words quickly.

I look forward to watching the three of them develop side by side. As I observe, I want to be careful not to label them or try to fit them in a particular box. After all, I may not have them pegged, or they may change. When one of my sisters was young, I would have called her an extrovert, but as an adult, that doesn’t describe her.

Still, it’s fun to see these early flashes of personality and get to know these small humans.

If only there were a filter that let them absorb only the good habits from their cousins and their parents ...


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