I always dreamt of having a mini-me. I imagined us giggling over getting our nails done and playing princess dress-up but my daughter is currently more into superhero face paint and dinosaurs than makeup. “I want to be pretty for me, I don’t want anything else to help me,” she says as I slather on mascara.

We bond over many things and have similar personalities in a lot of ways, but I do admit I have an inner struggle with wanting her to enjoy the same things I do. I’m amazed by her athletic ability as she voices wanting to be a runner like my husband, and in awe as she intricately builds a Barbie LEGO structure with her creative mind. But when she refuses to watch cake decorating shows and vetoes trendy outfits I pick for her, part of me feels deflated.

I remember counting down the months until she could take ballet as I did as a child. I eagerly purchased the shoes and brought her to class, but she refused to enter the room. We tried multiple times until I had to let my vision go. I’m sure it was the separation rather than the actual art of dance, but either way, I was crushed. There would be no tutus in my life.

The following year, however, she told me hip-hop was more her thing so we traded pirouettes for break dancing as I realized the value of her finding her niche. She discovered what she wanted and stuck with it, a desirable quality when staying true to yourself through adulthood.

Maybe I take it personally that she doesn’t hold the things I love in high regard. Or because she’s so indignant about it, adamantly proclaiming and constantly reminding me how strongly she feels against some of the expectations I had for her. This battle of the wills is a glimpse into her growing older.

She used to be my living baby doll who I once could dress in anything, bring anywhere, and would happily eat whatever I served her. I don’t have as much control as I once did, and that will only become more evident over time as we potentially argue over curfews and R-rated movies.

She now has her own assertive mind and she’s not afraid to use it. It’s a tough realization knowing we won’t always see eye to eye.

Of course, we all want what is best for our kids. First and foremost, may they be healthy, safe and happy. But part of the fun in parenting is having the opportunity to relive our childhood and see a piece of ourselves in them. Whether they have our taste in music, love of a sports team, share our sense of humor or a palate for spicy foods, we must admit to feeling as though our children are a reflection of us.

But what if they’re not entirely so? When it comes to our children, do we get what we get and not get upset?

Truthfully, I’m in awe of who our daughter is at the core. Interests fade, clothing changes, but her kindness, maturity, confidence and processing skills are something I hope remain with her forever.

The way we connect emotionally is truly more meaningful than any surface-level activity. Like when she looks up at me with her piercing blue eyes and says she got the mom she always wanted.

So I learn more about what makes her tick. I ask questions to show I want to be part of her life and imagination, gaining insight on her 5-year-old choices. I learn the ins and outs of Pokemon. Dig deeper into what fills her little soul and why.

Because as soon as her heart began to beat outside my body, she became her own human. And while she is truly a mix of my husband and me in many ways, she is not me. Not her daddy.

She is an individual. Beautiful, adventurous, creative, lovable her. And it’s our job to raise this person with the tools to discover and cultivate whoever it is she wants to be.

I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

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