Sarah heard her mom call her. “Coming, Mom,” she called back. She set her doll on her bed and ran down the hall toward the kitchen. She took the shortest route through the family room—up onto the corner table, across the sofa, over the big stuffed chair, and around the breakfast bar. “Here I am,” she announced.
Mom smiled. “That was very fast,” she said, “but next time I would appreciate it if you walked around the furniture.”
Sarah giggled. “But then I wouldn’t be as fast.”
“That’s true, but now look who’s trying to do what you did.”
Sarah turned around and saw her little brother, Adam. He was standing on the corner table, ready to make the jump from the table to the sofa. Mom hurried over and lifted him off the table.
“Adam learns a lot from watching you,” said Mom. “You need to set a good example for him to follow.” She set Adam down on the floor. “The reason I called you was to tell you that I’m going to go outside to work in the garden,” Mom continued. “Do you want to come out with me?”
“Sure,” said Sarah. She looked down at her bare feet. “But I need to get my shoes on.” She turned to run back to her bedroom. Adam followed. This time she hurried around the furniture, and so did Adam.
“You’re right, Mom,” she said as she returned with her shoes in her hand, and Adam right behind her. “He does follow my example.”
Sarah sat down to put on her shoes.
“Sissy, outside,” said Adam, walking to the door.
“He knows you’re going outside because he sees you putting on your shoes,” Mom said. She followed Adam to the door. “We’re all going to go outside,” she told him with a smile.
Adam pulled on the doorknob but couldn’t turn it. He looked at Mom. “Open?”
Shoes on, Sarah ran to the door. “I’ll open it,” she said. She turned the doorknob and gave a mighty tug. Adam cheered when he saw the sunlight streaming in through the open door.
“Come on, Adam,” Sarah said, “let’s ride our trikes.”
Adam ran past Sarah to the swing set. “Swing, Mommy?” he said hopefully.
Sarah hopped onto her tricycle. “No, Adam, we’re going to ride our trikes,” she insisted.
“Swing, Mommy?” Adam repeated.
Mom lifted Adam into the swing. “I think Adam wants to swing right now,” she said to Sarah.
“He can’t,” Sarah said sadly. “He’s supposed to follow my example.”
Mom gave Adam a push. “Having him follow your example, and making him do what you tell him to do aren’t the same thing,” she said.
“They aren’t?” asked Sarah in a disappointed tone.
“No.” Mom explained, “Adam is just a little boy, but he is starting to make some of his own decisions. Sometimes he will do what you want him to do, and sometimes he won’t.”
“I wish he would always do what I want him to do,” said Sarah.
“But that’s not the way life works,” Mom pointed out. “We all have our agency, which means that we are free to make our own decisions. There are good examples that we can follow, and there are bad examples that we can follow.”
Sarah thought for a moment. “I know it’s all right for Adam to follow my example, but is it all right if I follow Adam’s example?”
Mom nodded. “It would be fine for you to follow Adam’s example as long as he’s not doing something wrong,” she said.
“I’m going to follow his example right now,” Sarah said, climbing off of her tricycle, “because I want to swing, too.”