My daughter looks just like me, and, when I say “just like me” I mean just like me. I look at her and see my childhood pictures coming to life every single day. She’s only one, so there is a lot of her personality that we have yet to see, but, so far, she seems to be becoming a miniature of myself. I don’t want to take all the credit; flashes of her daddy come through from time to time, of course, but from the foods she likes to the way she colors to the little blonde curls that stick out from behind her ears this girl is little me all over again.
This is simultaneously incredibly fun and completely terrifying, both a huge honor and a tremendous challenge. You see, I’ve always been a very enthusiastic person, sensitive, with a vivid imagination. Some people thought these things made me really fun to be around, but a lot of people found those qualities obnoxious, and I was always very aware of it when people found me obnoxious. I was the child who was usually being told things like “calm down” and “do you never stop talking?” I loved being around people and could find a friend anywhere, but, because I could be fairly hyper, the message I often received from others was that I was too much. As one who has to think things through before I can talk them out, I tended to internalize these messages. The result was that I tried to change who I was. By high school I was terribly shy except around my closest friends. There were a lot of struggles and difficulties during that time and the years that followed, but there were also a lot of redemptive moments. I’ve learned a lot about myself and who I am and have finally learned to embrace who God made me to be, enthusiasm and all, but it was a slow process that took years.
Those tears and struggles are not what I want for my daughter. I know the pain that she will one day face when she first hears the words, whether it’s with her ears or her heart, “You’re too much. You’re obnoxious. You need to be calmer and quieter, and I don’t want to be around you until you conform to the ideal I have for you.” I don’t want to be the person sending her that message, so, in some odd way, parenting her is almost like a do-over. Husband and I can raise her to love who she is and to embrace it, to be confident and to shine brightly in this world despite the jabs thrown at her by an enemy who desperately wants her to be anything but who she was created to be. Every night as I rock her to sleep I whisper in her ear, “I love you. You aren’t too much. You are just right, and I love you” because that’s what I want her to internalize. The last thing my husband says to her after bedtime prayers is, “You are my sweet, sweet daughter. I love you. Good night” because it’s crucial that she know that, too. We’re building a foundation, either strong or ready to crumble, with every word we speak to and about her.
The problem is, I also don’t want to assume that I know exactly who she is because, regardless of how many similarities there may be between the two of us, she isn’t me. She is an individual apart from me. I can’t raise her to be the me I wish I could have been all my life. We have to raise her to be Afton. The world doesn’t need another Amy, but, in creating her and sending her to us, God clearly was saying that the world does need our Afton.
I don’t have all the answers, and I know that I’ll fall sometimes, but, by the Grace of God, my children will know and love both who they are and Whose they are. I don’t want to be a mom who expects and tries to force her children to be the version of themselves that is most compatible to me. I pray that I am and will be a mom who can model loving herself and others for who they were created to be. I pray that we’ll raise confident children. We were all born with the potential to change the world. Jesus Himself said that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we would do what He did on this earth and even greater things. If we teach our children that, the world can only be made better.