Lessons from Parenthood – A Child Isn’t a Mini-Me
When you find yourself expecting a baby you can’t help but imagine what your child will be like. We all have hopes, dreams, and expectations for our children. As a parent, you wonder what traits you will pass to your children – blue eyes, a goofy laugh, a startling sneeze. Then suddenly, they’re here. You meet that tiny little person for the first time and…they are everything and nothing like you expected, all at the same time.
Getting to Know You
When I was a first time mom, I imagined all the things that my daughter could be – doctor, nurse, mother, singer, athlete. I looked at her screaming red face, my first child screamed like a banshee for months, and wondered who she would become. I also began thinking about all the things I wanted to teach her, and the mistakes that I had made that I, hopefully, could help her to avoid. I wanted her to be all that I couldn’t be.
There is always a wonderful debate going somewhere about nurture versus nature. Are we born the way we are or do we develop who we are based on the environment in which we are raised? Before I actually had children of my own, you know that wonderful period when you think you know everything about raising children, I most definitely leaned toward the nurture side of the debate. Certainly the home environment determined personality traits? Right, it makes sense.
Then I had a child.
It makes me laugh now. From the very beginning, my little angel had ideas of her own. Her personality was nothing like I expected. It actually took me a few years to realize that the more I wanted her to do something, the more likely she was to dig in her heels and say no.
That’s when I finally realized – a child isn’t a mini-me.
What I wanted my daughter to become didn’t really matter. My job wasn’t to make her into another me. My job was to help her discover who she was and guide her towards being a good, responsible adult. As her parent, I am here to guide, direct, and teach.
Children may look exactly like you, talk like you, walk like you, but they are not you. They are their own separate person that gets to make their own mistakes. When they do make mistakes, those mistakes are not directly reflective on the parent as a person, because children have their agency to make choices too.
Lest anyone think I am completely on the nature side of the argument, I believe that who we are is a healthy combination of both our nature and environment.
Being a Guide
Parents have to be very careful about their dreams, wants, desires, and hopes for their children. How many Disney movies have you watched about that – the parent that pushes or puts undo pressure on a child because the parent wants the child to accomplish something the parent never could. The sad part is, it’s usually done out of love and wanting the best for their children. We see in our children all that we could have been.
I’m a little ashamed to say that my dreams for my first child turned into unattainable expectations. Poor kid, we got to make our biggest mistakes on her. These expectations left both of us frustrated and unhappy. I’m not sure what happened after I had two kids, but something changed. I got it. I couldn’t push my daughter to be what I wanted her to be. It’s a good thing too because she’s amazing and great in ways I never would have imagined.
As my children get older, I find that my job as mother becomes less hands-on and more guidance. When children are young, we make all their decisions for them and that is what changes with time. I no longer pick out clothes for any of my kids. That may mean they occasionally wear an outfit that makes them look like they got dressed in the dark, but I’ve come to accept that.
Guiding can be hard. It requires a different skill set than taking care of a baby or toddler. It takes more listening, observing, and patience.
Maybe your child really is a mini version of you and that makes it easier to understand and guide them. Maybe your child is a mini version of you and that makes raising them extremely hard because you drive each other crazy. Even if they are a mini-me, seeing them as an individual not an extension of the parent, helps give everyone peace of mind.
I’m grateful that I learned this lesson early in my daughter’s life for her sake and the sake of the children that followed. It’s given both of us freedom – her, the freedom to choose and be herself, and me, the freedom to sit back a bit and enjoy the ride.