Please (Don’t) Be Like Me

There are a lot of things about myself that I would love to pass on to my daughter—my self-confidence, my empathy for others, my love of travel—but until I had a child, I honestly didn’t believe that children were destined to turn out to be like their parents. I mean, I wasn’t anything like mine, so I thought it was unlikely that my daughter would turn out like me. That is until the day I found myself driving slightly aggressively—probably speeding—when I had a sudden vision of my mom driving me somewhere when I was a teenager, saying to me, “Don’t drive like me when you grow up.” I realized in that moment that I did just what she told me not to do: I drove just like her. I suddenly felt compelled to look at all of my actions—to dissect them—wondering if each was one I would want my daughter to replicate when she got older. There were the ones that were obviously bad—like smoking. I “quit” when I was pregnant with both of my children, but secretly picked it back up soon after each were born, smoking only at work or while I was alone in the car. This went on for years, until my “secret” seemed to be less and less like one, as I was certain that my daughter knew what I was doing. One night, I realized that even though I may not be teaching her to smoke—she hadn’t actually seen me do it—I was teaching her to keep secrets. This really scared me. I suddenly imagined her a few years older, hiding things from me, and feeling that it was completely normal since I had somehow ingrained it in her that this was acceptable behavior. It was this realization that prompted me to quit, for good. It’s now been about a year and half, and I am both proud and relieved that it is no longer a part of my life.

More than once, I have said to myself—and to others—that my daughter is nothing like me when I was a child. She is competitive, while I was complacent; she is focused, I was a daydreamer; she is intense, I was easy-going. The list goes on and on. At times, I would honestly wonder to myself “Where did this girl come from?” but mostly I was just very proud to have a child who worked hard at school, who set goals for herself, and who had the self-confidence to believe that she will be successful at whatever she sets her mind to. I wanted to take credit for all of these things, but I knew that this was just her personality—she was somehow programmed to be this way—and the most I could take credit for was instilling in her a love of learning, and showing her that I cared about the things she was passionate about. Then about a year ago, she decided to do research on the best Ivy League schools for drama so that she could “decide where she wanted to go.” She was ten. I went to work the following day still thinking about what she had said. I shared my feeling of awe with a co-worker, who after hearing about my daughter’s latest goal, laughed and told me that, although my daughter may not be like me at all when I was a child, she was just like me now. I was stunned. I started to think about what she said, to look at myself as my co-worker saw me—how my daughter saw me. I work hard at my job, always focusing intensely on what needs to get done—sometimes bringing work home with me to finish after the kids were in bed. I talk about my goals with my daughter, about where I want to go in my career. I am insanely competitive—mostly with myself, especially when it comes to work—but my competitiveness can be found even when playing a simple game of cards with my daughter. . . It was true, my daughter was more like me than I had ever realized, and even more than that, I had proof that there was a chance that my daughter might turn out like me after all. What a frightening—and exciting—possibility . . .

It’s possible that I may have too much advice for my daughter: do this, don’t do that, listen to me when I tell you, you shouldn’t, etc., etc. I think the important thing to know is that I am certainly not perfect, and to recognize when my actions don’t match the things I say. She should always think for herself whether or not she wants to be like me, or to hopefully be better—either way doesn’t really matter, as I will always be in awe of who she is, and who she has become.

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