“From the moment our children are born, we are constantly looking for ways in which they look, act, and think like us. Why?”
Seeing my almost eight-year-old daughter ferociously devour Ramona Quimby, Age 8, brings me so much joy, as I had that same love for books and reading. Immediately I’m transported back to 1983, sitting on my shiny red, patent leather(ish) beanbag atop the shag carpeting, getting lost in the pages of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.
It’s easy to slip into the pattern of reminiscing, juxtaposed with imagining how my daughter will grow up. It becomes a fine line between sharing with her what I loved as a child and forcing her into loving what I did.
It’s an internal struggle. Although I don’t want to control her mind entirely, I do want to preserve her innocence, protect her from wrongdoing, and guide her to make the right choices. My beliefs are mine, and while I can share them with her, in the end, I want her to have the power to believe as she sees fit, even if we disagree.
How do I do that without impressing upon her what I think is right? I see it even now, because as parents, my husband and I certainly influence what she believes and the subsequent choices she makes. I will talk about current events, or the upcoming election, and she is well aware of where we stand. She then chooses to stand with us even though her knowledge comes only from what we have told her and the demonstration of our feelings. How could I control my emotions if she chose to “depart from the herd”?
I know this internal struggle is only going to escalate as she gets older and outside influences grow exponentially, drowning out the parental influences in order to “fit in” among her crowd of peers. Right now it’s about choosing carrots over candy, but several years from now, candy will be something far more enticing. I share with her my beliefs not because I want her to be like me—I don’t—but because I can’t help myself. Neither do I want to live vicariously through her or re-imagine my childhood in a different manner at her expense. The foresight I have compels the inner battle.
From the moment our children are born, we are constantly looking for ways in which they look, act, and think like us. Why? As proof they are most certainly ours? Or as a symbol that we’ve successfully recreated the best version of ourselves? If it’s a good trait, it’s from you, but the bad traits all belong to someone else, right? I ask the question, but I’m still seeking the answer.
“Oh, interesting. Maybe I should listen to myself when I talk.”
I celebrate my daughter’s individuality and want to continue to foster that behavior. Instead of wishing I had the same zest and confidence for performing as she does, I choose to marvel in her ability to get onstage, and then I use it as motivation to step outside my own comfort zones.
I find myself giving her life lessons that are rich with goodness, but laugh at my occasional hypocrisy. I can dish it out so well but am not always walking in that truth. It is in those moments when I realize she is my greatest teacher, because the lessons I am giving to her are the ones I need most in that moment. The sooner I step into that role and model that behavior, the faster she will comprehend it and follow suit. But once again, the struggle returns if I think I’m shaping her to be like me.
For a recovering control freak, this is a battle that is fraught with strife. Parents have an enormous amount of control over their children, although maybe “none at all” as my almost four-year-old son constantly reminds me. Control actually becomes an illusion. I hear my daughter yelling at her brother to say or do something that she wants, and I hear my words coming out of her mouth even as I remind her, “You cannot control his actions.” Oh, interesting. Maybe I should listen to myself when I talk.