When you are a child it is that thing Peter Pan tries to sew back on. You spend entirely too much time wondering how it fell off, why he noticed, and if you should be noticing. You spend the next 24 hours desperately keeping tabs on your own shadow, only to promptly forget about it after that.
As you grow older it becomes a thing to play with. You can make shapes and symbols in it. You can make it look tall, fat, skinny, short, or make it dance. It’s like having extreme power over a carnival mirror.
Teenagers use it in much the same way, but the entire shadow process becomes a little more narcissistic. How does the shadow’s hair look? Is shadow me skinny enough? Can I make shadow me stand cooler?
Once you are a parent, the meaning changes entirely. Shadow-the small child who copies my every move. All children do this for awhile, it’s how they learn to talk and react to situations. My daughter takes shadowing to a whole new level. You never even realize she is watching you that closely. She will adopt my mannerisms and use them in her playtime, often with hilarious results. Once, as a toddler, she started styling the hair on her doll while pretending to chew on a piece of gum. I didn’t even realize I chewed gum that often! I must have a habit of chewing mindlessly on it while brushing her hair. Then there was the time when she sat next to me with her fake laptop computer, pretended to type, and then tapped on the screen a little and said “this page slow”. Oops, do I say that?
She’s six now, so the shadowing has changed a little. She literally follows me around the house still, but she doesn’t always copy the mannerisms. She will point them out though. The other day I walked out of my bedroom into the hallway. There is a closet there for linens and games, my kids are perpetually leaving that door open after getting something out of it. I came out of my room and leaned on the door to make sure it was closed. It was. My daughter immediately asked “Why do you always lean on that door? Is something wrong with your feet?” I don’t ALWAYS lean on the door…do I? Now I notice every single time I do it.
Other crazy ones that will make you hyper-aware of yourself include “Why do you always step with that foot first?”
“Why do you check the door twice?”
“Are we supposed to spin our rings a lot?”
You get the idea. Children are our little shadows. They are watching our interactions with the World to learn how best to interact with it. Good luck!