Admit it. We’ve all done it. We’ve been frustrated with something one of our children has done, and had a moment where it seemed like we were looking into a mirror at our very own reflection. Sometimes it can be so much fun to see traits of my husband or me in my children, and other times I get worried that they’ve inherited too much from us.
Biologically, my oldest looks like my husband’s twin when he was a 7th grader, my middle has shoulders four times those in the same age range just like his dad, my daughter may be a lefty like my husband, but she is the spitting image of me when I was her age. These physical similarities are quite something. They prove we are their parents. They give us a way to see our reflection in the purest way. They evolve as our children do. These similarities are undeniable, and unavoidable, so we find entertainment in them.
However, the traits that we determine to be shared with our children through personality or likeness can cause us a little anxiety. The worrisome traits that make themselves known aren’t the kind made visible in old photos nor are they things we can prove physically. These other semblances are those that make my husband and me worry our kids have received our weaknesses in addition to our strengths.
For example, I tease my husband all of the time that he is on his own time because we each have very different ideas about what hurrying means, and this is something my oldest has inherited. Just like my husband, if I pressure my oldest to hurry, something will be forgotten, left undone, and it will still take too long for him to get moving. If allowed to take their time, both of them do things very well. Also, my middle is the collision of our four grandpas’ orneriness. If warned that his behavior may cause him to receive consequences, his eyes sparkle and his big personality comes through even stronger. Then there is my daughter who is unlike many in my immediate family when it comes to aggressive leadership or the imperiousness found in most CEO’s, but, I can see her process things passionately rather than logically sometimes, and that is definitely how I view the world.
The delicate dance most parents must do is use these reflections as a way to empathize with our kids’ individual journeys through life. I know my oldest wants to be the best in everything he does. He feels a pressure to be so good, and I recognize that feeling as a fellow oldest. Knowing this desire helps me to be there for him. My husband understands that my middle kiddo is very intelligent but learns differently than many kids in his class. This can be very difficult for his teachers, but my husband identifies with this feeling all too well, and he makes sure my middle guy knows he has someone in his court. Finally, my daughter will listen to a song, watch a movie, or read a sad book and cry. If we ask her why she is crying, she’ll shake her head desperately and say, “I don’t know.” That’s when I can swoop in and say, “I feel ya, honey. We feel ALL of the feelings ALL at once. It’s not fair, but the world needs people like us.”
For now, I choose to enjoy the reflections in my family and to use this knowledge to be a better parent. If I can look in the eyes of my lovable middle and know that he is a tiny embodiment of why my husband and my grandparents are so loved, it’s easier for me to be patient with him. If I know my oldest child’s desire to be involved in all activities is driven by the same thing that made me afraid to miss anything my friends were involved in, I can show him compassion and get him to more activities. And if I realize that my daughter’s beautiful thunderstorm of emotions is uncontrollable and incredibly exciting, then I can be ready to help her talk through what she’s thinking.
What about you? How do you see yourself in your children? Do you feel the need to intervene or push them in a certain direction because of what you see? We’d love to hear your thoughts.