I believe the biggest mistake parents make is thinking their children are miniature versions of themselves. I will readily admit to making that mistake as a new parent, too, and even now sometimes forgetting that one simple fact, but I strive hard to be better at it.
When I first found out I was going to be a parent, I remember feeling apprehension for several reasons. I worried that my child would be just like me, and I also worried that she would be absolutely nothing like me. I know that seems strange to have oppositional worries, but both were extremely strong. While I wanted her to be an individual, to have her own interests, and her own personality, I couldn’t help also wishing for a mini-me, someone I could identify with because of the similarities. So, of course, when she came, neither one of the wishes I had came true. Instead, it was in the nefarious gray area. She was definitely her own individual, but I could still see so much of myself in her.
And I realize now that this gray area is perfectly fine, that she should fit into this category. Too many parents find themselves seeing those similarities and playing them up, trying to fit their child into the mold they created when they were children themselves. The major problem with this approach is that it stifles the child’s own creativity and drive. If they’re just being a better version of you, why couldn’t you just change yourself to fit the ideal you have instead of trying to live vicariously through your children?
I was watching the movie “Robots” with my youngest child yesterday, and one thing that always strikes me about the film is that each robot is made from parts the parents put together, but for them to grow they need new, larger parts, that are specific to them. When those parts start to decay, they get new ones. That’s a beautiful metaphor for human children, in my opinion, because as children get older they do indeed change, but the change isn’t structured by you. It’s the natural progression, like them getting their “big kid parts,” which in turn become “young adult parts,” and so forth. By the time our children are adults, they have gone through any number of revisions to become individuals, to become their most perfect selves.
So, is it okay to see some of ourselves in our children? Absolutely. Indeed, that’s one of the most special parts of having children, getting to see that smile that is a mix of you and your partner. To hear that laugh that is just as fake as yours. To have that perfectionist streak so she’s not satisfied with mediocrity, just like you. It’s only natural to see those things and feel nostalgic for our own childhoods, but that’s as good as it gets. To stay focused on those things negates everything else your child is that isn’t specific to what you are. Enjoy and embrace your children for every part of their personalities, because before you know it, they will change, and you will have missed this special time.