Parenting Yourself

One look at a picture of my daughter at just about any age and there is no question she is mine. She has the fortune of having inherited her big, round eyes from her daddy, but the rest is nearly a carbon copy of myself.

The older she gets, the more I recognize my own behaviors and character quirks in her as well and that, it turns out, is much harder to look at than her familiar face.

I find I’m in a constant state of questioning my reaction to her nearly every move. It’s as if I can see my young self repeating mistakes or heading off the same rails and I want to stop her/me before things get worse. Because, I know they get worse and isn’t it my job as a parent to protect her from that? Or am I failing her by not letting her learn life lessons on her own? Worse, am I alienating her by lecturing the crap out of her for sins she’s not even fully committed yet or teaching her she’s not capable of good decisions on her own?

It’s not like I want a life do over. I own all my past crap and actually embrace it for making me the person I am today. Looking back on my 39 years, I wouldn’t change a thing-even the mistakes.  But when I see my kids heading down a similar road of heartbreak or disappointment, I just want to save them from themselves because I can remember how awful they’re about to feel. Then I worry that I’m supposed to be the one building them up, not preparing them for the worst. I know what happens when someone constantly prepares you for the worst, you grow up to expect only that.

That would be the biggest crime I could commit, teaching my children that life is only full of misery or that stumbling once means you can never get up and try again. If that’s the lesson I risk teaching when I try to keep her from harm, then I know I can’t ever do it again.

So, I will watch her make my same mistakes. I will watch her learn through a little heartache and some pain. And then I will lift her up and remind her that she is good and strong and capable and kind. I will be be there after the falls to remind her she can get back up and choose whatever path suits her-whether I tread before her or not.
This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosivesby John Elder Robison. Parenting is a challenging job, but what challenges does a parent with Asperger’s face? Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Comments

  1. says

    I know just how you feel! My middle one is my mini-me (except he’s a boy!) but I can see so much of myself in him, and it’s so hard to know when to step in and when to step back. I just want to tell him, “Dude! I know what lies at the end of that path, go the other way.” But I have to remember, he isn’t me, and he won’t do things the same way i did. I have to have faith in him and let him go, little by little. It’s tough, isn’t it?

    • Cristie says

      It is tough. I have never thought of it as having faith in them though. If I go that route it might be easier. She’s definitely a better version of me so I have tremendous faith in her!

  2. says

    Aww I love it! I’m with you in wanting to prevent all the misery and share EVERYthing I’ve learned in my life so they make none of the mistakes I did, but… I can’t do that, and oh do they make mistakes – though frequently not the same ones I did ;)

    She’s adorable by the way! (And I was trying to comment on another post you wrote, but comments are only publicly open on some posts?)

  3. says

    Kids are great teachers in that we learn to recognize what we did and what they shouldn’t do. However holding back is hard. I’ve seen many parents shelter their children from the world because they are afraid and well I guess we should be but if we hold them back then how can they grow?

    • Cristie says

      That’s the eternal question-how can they grow? I’m trying to hold back most of the time but you’re right, it’s just so hard.

  4. says

    It’s so hard watching our kids make mistakes and wanting to save them from them! But yes, it’s in making the mistakes that lessons are learned.

  5. says

    So very true. My kids are still 4 and under, but I already step in too often. While I’m dealing with more physical things, I’ve learned that even falling off the couch once in a while is a good lesson in taking risks, getting up and dusting off, and then deciding whether it was worth trying again.

    • Cristie says

      Agreed! I swooped in every single time for my second (first boy) and then when his brother was born I simply ran out of time and energy. He’s much less timid as a result I believe. I think I did my middle guy a disservice rescuing him so often. Man it’s hard to watch them fall though isn’t it?

  6. says

    That is definitely challenging. I watch my daughter do things and it’s so hard not to jump in and say “This is how you do it.” She does look just like you! Beautiful mother and daughter.

    • Cristie says

      Aw, thanks. And yes, more often than not I’ve got to bite my lip when watching things go down.