My daughter twirled in her pink tutu. Her lopsided pigtails swayed as she whirled. She stopped to gaze in the full-length mirror, adoring who she saw. She beamed. But, she and I–we’re different. When I was a child, a tomboy wearing a soccer jersey looked back at me when I saw my reflection. And I, too, liked what I saw. My daughter may end up having zero of the same interests as me, but yet, I secretly hope she does.
And I wonder, are we all just trying to create mini-mes?
We want the best for our kids. We do the research and expose them to life’s opportunities, but in the end, do we want our kids to be just like us? Are parents just as bad as Austin Powers, only hoping our creations don’t turn out as evil? It seems as though we have the desire to make tiny versions of ourselves–but want them to be better. We push our kids to surpass the number of medals won, earn a higher GPA, get into the university that denied us, and make more money.
For many of us, we never lived up to that potential our parents and teachers lectured us on. The “would haves” and “should haves” sometimes cling to our shadows–Post-it notes stuck, reminding us of our disappointments. So instead of trying to fix or improve our adult-self, we put that energy into our kids, forgetting that they have shadows of their own.
I know that I am guilty of the desire to create a mini-me. I want my daughter to be a better athlete than I was, so I put her in soccer and gymnastics by age three. Come on, she can do better than her mother’s division III soccer career. I want her to earn better grades than me, too. So daily, we work on letters. And when she gets older, I’ll probably want to nudge her to fulfill the dreams that I did not. Maybe she’ll have the guts to join the Peace Corps, work or travel abroad, or even finish writing that book. She won’t be as afraid or lack the confidence her mother once did.
But it’s not my life. Her life belongs to her and only her. What I need to do is expose her to everything. Maybe she’ll have her father’s brain and excel in math and science instead of my scattered creative one. At least she’ll make more money. Maybe she’ll wear ballet slippers instead of soccer cleats. Maybe she’ll be a homebody and reject the idea of wanderlust. I don’t know.
But, what I do know is she’s not me. As she flourishes, she will acquire her own dreams. She will feel a confidence in dominating her unique skills and talents. As long as she works hard to get better at whatever she chooses to excel at, I will support her. It’s true, she’ll have her failures–we all do. But, she’ll do it her way.
Instead of strictly putting her in activities that I’ve been in, I need to look at my daughter as she wants to be looked at–even if she’s wearing a tutu instead of a jersey. And as her mother, it’s my job to stop studying my own shadow and to search for other opportunities for my daughter. If that requires me to step into a dance studio or theatre, then I’ll do it. Because my daughter’s life is what she will make of it–not me. So, when the desire creeps back in to create a mini-me, I’ll do my best to gaze outside of my shadow and throw away those Post-it notes.