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.

Published by Erin Rehill

A few years ago, my then eight-year-old daughter told me that she wished I could write down all the things I told her so that she wouldn’t forget them when she got older. In that moment, my daughter gave me such a sense of validation, something I hadn’t really experienced in that way. As parents, we don’t often receive confirmation from our children that we are doing a good job, or that we even know what we are talking about. Since that time, I’ve started to pay more attention to the things I tell her, often thinking to myself “Will she remember this when she is older?” So, this is for her, my words of advice to be read, thought about, laughed at, and maybe even used, when she is older.

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