Like I often do, I posted (yet another) video of my kid on my Instagram. He was being his regular, carefree, joyful, pure-hearted self, twirling freely while his infectious laugh carried through the air. The online village I'm grateful to be part of sent me messages, as they so lovingly do.
"He looks just like you!"
"He laughs just like you!"
"He's your mini-me!"
I love hearing comments like this. What parent doesn't? I often see so much of myself in my kids. The good parts as well as the parts of myself I deem as not so great. I love taking credit for the beautiful and hilarious bits of him, but I have to try hard to squash the insecurities when I notice the other parts. The ones that arise when I see traits of myself, the ones I have never been fond of, in him.
My wide nose.
My loud, booming laugh.
So many aspects of my personality that cause self-doubt.
As I reflected on this, I cringed. I realized that I'm allowing my ego to drive my emotions, which, of course, affects my parenting. Not only is this not fair to my kids, but it's also not fair to me. And I know I need to make a change.
What I feel like I need to do is let go of my ego and parent with my heart.
I need to embrace the idea that nurturing, supporting, and loving my child has everything to do with encouraging them to be the best version of themselves and nothing to do with raising a miniature version of me.
Compliments are lovely, and comparisons are natural. There's nothing wrong with my children being similar to me. I love seeing reflections of myself in them, and feel proud when I do. Nevertheless, I don't ever want them to feel as though they're required to be a mirror image of me or my personality.
My children are so much more than just an extension of me.
I want to encourage and nurture their developing personalities. Positive parenting expert Rebecca Eanes says, "I think we need to hear that it's okay to listen to our hearts. It's okay to let go of control and embrace love." Letting go of my ego and parenting with my heart is not a simple task, per se, but it is a worthy one. And I know there are more than a few ways I can implement this notion in our everyday lives.
I can start by building up my children's self-confidence. By encouraging them to try all different sports and letting them choose extracurricular activities that they enjoy, this will allow them to cultivate interests that appeal to them.
I can boost them up when they choose to express themselves through their own personal style. My oldest kids (4 years old and 9 years old) have their own opinions on how they want to present themselves and what kind of clothes they want to wear. By encouraging them to pick out their clothing (and guiding them based on weather and age-appropriate style), they let their individuality shine through.
I can always be sure to communicate clearly with my children. I can watch and learn how they complete tasks, whether it be cleaning their room or creating a craft, by discussing techniques for completion rather than telling them the way I would do something allows both of us to see there are different ways to approach something yet still reach a similar outcome.
I can demonstrate my ability to be myself. By being authentically me, I hope this will model for them that being true to themselves is not only an acceptable way to be, but it's actually the best way to be.
I'm not expecting myself to be perfect—at 36 I'm still a work in progress as well—but I can show them that it's perfectly acceptable for anyone to keep discovering, learning, and growing as person.
I can put my ego aside and accept their dislikes, even when it's something I enjoy personally. I've always enjoyed going to the theater and always hoped my children would feel the same. However, a recent trip to the theater which required us to leave at intermission has showed me that it is not the case for them.
I have to accept the fact that it's not part of who they are right now, and that is okay. Maybe it'll happen for us later in life. In the meantime, there are numerous activities and hobbies available to us and there are countless other activities we can enjoy together.
It's natural and important to have hopes and dreams for my child, of course, but it's equally as important to remember that they are always evolving. And it's my job to make sure their bright personalities feel safe and secure enough to shine through—no matter what.