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JANUARY 9, 2009 9:24AM

How do I parent a mini-me?

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New Years Day, 2009
 
You confuse me so much, oh daughter of mine.  You seem so impossibly mature at times, yet at other moments you behave more like a tantruming brat then the 11 year old girl that you are.  Girl?  Young woman?  Nymph?  How do I characterise this in-between stage of yours?  It frightens me more then anything else.
 
Some days I feel like shrinkwrapping you, keeping you in stasis in a closet so I can just pull you out at times and squeeze you to bits.  Other times I would gladly throw you into a time machine and alternately turn you back into the perfect 8 year old, or send you into your thirties without a look back. 
 
I don't know.  I'm not even  sure I know how to parent you properly right now.  You push buttons in me I didn't even know I had, like the scene in Elf where he runs his hands up all the elevator buttons, lighting it up like a Christmas tree.  That's me... all lit up with emotions firing everywhere.
 
 
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I feel frightened because I look at you, look in you, and see me at your age.  I see nothing of your father in you besides his blue eyes and a propensity to hate mornings.  See, I so much want to do better by you then how I grew up.   I want to make sure that I don't limit you based on my own perceptions,  Girlie of mine, I want you to fly high and free.
 
Butfor all my talk,  Momma bird really doesn't want to think of you growing up and leaving the nest.  And while the reality of it might be years away, all your growth from here on in is just in preparation of that flight.  And that's okay... that's what it's supposed to be.  All the adolescent turmoil that's to come is so that you can separate for me/us appropriately.  I *know* it's developmentally de rigueur, I'm well read and well aware on this topic but DANG!
 
Someone said being a mother was like living with your heart outside of your body.  I can't think of truer words right now.

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looking forward to BTDT advice from other parents who have survived the pre-teen years!
She's the spitting image of you! I'm glad that you realize how important it is for her to be able to separate from you....this will become quite evident in the next year or so. Teen years are trying, but I do believe that if you've laid the groundwork, they will always come back to what you've instilled.

Just be prepared that soon, her peers will have more weight in her eyes than you will. So, if she declares one day that she 'hates' you, try to remember that they eventually grow out of that phase.....at least before you get to the point of killing them. ;-D
girls are so different, road runner, that its hard for me to compare. in addition, both my sons were totally weird, wonderful, but unique experiences - one adopted a series of alter egos to cope with his social disconnection, the other one changed, and changes to this day...

the best advice I got was "appreciate them each day, because they will never be exactly like that again".

Amen.
A beautiful post, extremely moving. I know you'll do all right.
She is so beautiful, and looks so much like you. My "mini me" is 26, now, but one story always comes to mind. In her teens, we through a stage of curfew protests and ignoring curfew. Then one day, when she was 14, I went out to a ball game with a friend. A storm came up - the kind that puts 20 year old trees in the street and tears roofs off homes. Power out everywhere. That kind.

There she was at home alone watching shingles from our roof land in the back yard. The news stations were saying stay put. Not me. I moved heaven and hell to get home. When I got back, she was crying and said she was scared that I might have been hurt. I hugged her and told her now she knows how I feel every time she doesn't come home by curfew or at least call me. Just one sentence.

Communication becomes key. That and love. Those two will take you from now until eternity.
You might start by behaving like an adult - not posting your child's picture on the internet would be a beginning.

Sheesh!
You have no idea how seeing your post makes me feel better. I've been wearing my heart around my neck since my oldest was fourteen, five years ago. I wish we could make time stand still!!!
My youngest is my mini-me and she's 16. Every day I think she tries to come up with ways to prove she's NOT me. I understand that but it hurts. It lays your soul bare, I tell you. The upside is, there will be two adults roaming the earth with a caring attitude and someday .... grandchildren I pray. Thanks again for sharing how you feel... makes me feel a lot better. Only a caring parent understands this. It is like the first umbilical cord breaks physically, rather quickly with a scalpel, but there is a second one that stretches and stretches and hurts before it ends up in an eternal spiderweb linking you. But remember the spider web is one of the strongest and most resilient of materials. Bless you!
The second photo looks just like a Vermeer painting. Simply beautiful!
I know it sounds so dumb ... the label "tweens" .. but God~ it's so accurate. My daughter lived in a pergutory between playing in our treehouse and wearing mascara for what seemed like a decade. She couldn't decide if she was a little girl or a big girl and if I treated her like the wrong one at the wrong time ... there would be hell to pay.

Good luck, dear ... just remember to enjoy the time you have together ... regardless of her temperment and interesets.

hugs for the Momma!!!
Beautiful writing and photography!
I've got twin girls who will be 11 in May. They are alternately babyish and stubbornly independent. If I live through this schizophrenic stage I'll have advice which will be too late for both of us!

LC
Having a mini-me pays of in later years. I had one too - I couldn't recognize it very well at the time, but let me tell you, as I gain self-awareness, I also gain the ability to listen tolerantly and to be able to say "I know EXACTLY what you mean" and have my daughter understand that I really do.
God I know how you feel!! Being a parent is hard enough, but parenting yourself, or what you see of your child in you, is unbelievably hard. I try to see it as therapy for myself, and think of it as healing, but some days I can't face what I have to look at. And mine is only 4!
Thanks of for posting this!
I don't think turmoil is developmentally required. Common, yes, and absolutely normal, but don't borrow trouble. Sufficient unto the day ...
I don't want to creep you out or anything... but your daughter is beautiful! You should show your post to her.
Really advice? Ok. Here goes...
( Since I have a wonderful, smart, witty, curious, caring, I'm-thrilled-with-how-she's-turned-out 20 year old daughter who is/was a mini-me, I feel a little bit qualified to share advice. I adore her and always have. At the same time, no one in the world can drive me as crazy as she does.

What I remember from those pre-teen years is this: they really need you to be around. Even whey they act like they soooo don't want you around, they need it and secretly want it. Hang out in the living room/tv room/whatever room when she is. Have her go on errands with you. Offer to drive her and the friends places. (Windshield time is the best time - especially for pre-teen and teenagers who are loathe direct eye contact.) Know that when you're together, she's watching you and observing and taking mental notes. Later, she'll try out what she saw you do, usually in front of you. This will drive you nuts because an 8 year old doesn't need to be acting like an adult for heaven's sake, but that's what they do. They test out what they've seen and learned and they see if they can do it. They don't know why, but they do. And then they really don't know why you (we) get frustrated when they're just doing what they saw us do.
Bottom line, she acts like you because she adores every part of you.

She is gorgeous, by the way. What a cutie pie!
oops! I got her age wrong, of course she's eleven! One must never short an eleven year old girl by a few years!!! Many apologies...
and I remember... 11 is so close to 13... 11 really is the new 13 anymore, isn't it?

I love the pics. Really love them.

I called my daughter 'girlie' all the time too. Still do. She calls me Lady Jane. And no, my name isn't Jane.
One of the many things they don't tell you about having a kid is that you give the universe your heart with the understanding that you may not get it back unbroken. But that's ok
Beautiful child and mother :) you are doing just fine.
All part of God's plan if the second ten years came first, there'd never be a second child in any family. My clone is about to turn 21 -- you ain't see nothin' yet!!
On a serious note:

My son's college counselor asked me what I thot was an odd question: "What do you know about Einstein's kids?" After a pregnant pause, I said "Nothing." "You think that might be part of the problem?" he replied.

Not that any of us are Einstein, but the smarter, wiser, more well-read, more talented, more experienced you are, the harder it is for you child to find his or her own identity. As parents, we know we're not competing (well, good parents aren't), but trust me, the kid is always competing -- and usually falling short.

The first time my son beat me at chess -- around 12 -- he walked around with a smile on his face for a week. What he didn't understand was that I was far happier that he beat me than I would have been if I had beaten him again. That's when you know you are at least on the road to being a grown-up yourself.
rated, and I emailed it to my wife since our daugther is a mini me of her,
She IS a mini-you! You are both so lovely, as is your writing. You should tuck this away to give to her when she grows up. It's a beautiful snap shot of your love for her.
I don't have any advice for you because my mini-me is 12 (13 in August) and on most days I want to strangle her. She thinks she knows what is best for her and I don't (go figure). I have to remind her that she has ony been alive for 12 years and if she wants to see another one, she better do as I say. It is a constant struggle/battle and on some days I feel like I am losing, but she'll never know that.
She is ADORABLE, and so are you for caring so much. You're both very lucky.

Rated

All the best,
Greg
Reading this wonderfully honest piece, then the startlingly clueless "Be an adult... Sheesh!" comment, then seeing the very same photo on the Open Salon cover? Absolutely the high point of the day. Thank you!

(oh, and Open Salon freaking rocks. Thank you, too, editors.)
another voice in the AmHereDoingThis now! my mini-me is 12, although she's much more like her father & ds, who is 9, is much more like me, but I can totally relate to the adorable 8-yr-old one day and the teen-age witch the next day. Sometimes the change-over happens in 10 minute spurts! To illustrate the dichotomy, for Christmas, all she asked for was Twilight stuff and an American Girl doll.

Good luck with your beautiful girl.
Loved your article! I have a 24 year-old who has always looked and acted so much like me that at one point she was convinced I could read her mind. I remember saying to her, "You don't HAVE to behave like this to break away--I am letting you go." (College, I believe.) So here's the good news/bad news. I am sure you have heard this, but it is sometimes hard to remember. Bad news? They will do what they do to emotionally move away, and someone who can push your buttons is really good at the knife in the heart. Good news? It passes, and they return as wonderful adults who demonstrate that they really WERE listening, who say things like, "I remember I was such a bitch to you, and I do not even know why." They show you, through their choices and actions, that they admire you.

I called it "the dark years." You will both be okay, but it is tough.
I can offer no better advice than the other posters here, except to say that somehow we all "survived" our parents as she will no doubt survive your heartfelt best efforts at parenting. With time and luck comes empathy and compassion. Save this post for the day many years from now when she is where you are now. Only then should you share it with her. Let it deepen the bonds of empathy and compassion, and cast new light on the circle of life. And you can both marvel at how young you were.
Thanks for voicing your thoughts and feelings. This post may be the best thing you could do both for her and you.

x nada
Portrait of the girl with blue cup has just launched 100 ships!
I have all boys and one amazing daughter who is now 14 and everything I wished I was at her age. She is all at once very mature and very innocent. Just when I think she big - she's really still little. And a definite Mini-Me.
1. you are thinking about it so your in the top 2%
2. like the rest of us you wonder where the darn operating manual is
3. It gets even more interesting soon
4. Never forget that for girls middle school is a hell that has no limit, if you can help her with that, you are an angel
5. you are in the top 2%
What a lovely pair you two are. If you get all this parenting stuff figured out please let me know because I have two daughters and I feel sure I'm going to screw them up in one way or another. :-P Thanks for posting.
Yes! You have described this age for girls so well. Are they grown up? Are they ready for the world? Mine seems like she is, but then I turn around and I think she might be getting ready to draw on the walls. I would love to freeze time for her right now because of her quirks and impossibly mature sense of humor. This post really stuck a chord, a good one, that is resonating melodically through my soul.
Oh! I have one, too. Only she is nearly 16. I adore her. We have so much fun. Not to worry. I told mine we are going to be like an Anita Brookner novel. She will never marry and we shall live in a cottage by the sea, just the two of us forever!
When my son was 10 we went for a walk and had a talk. He asked about puberty, which one of his friends was somehow already experiencing. So I explained the real facts of life, that as a young man of 10 he was as smart as he would ever be. That soon he too would experience what his friend was experiencing and besides losing about 30 IQ points there would be short periods of insanity. As I expected, he rolled his eyes at another Dad story and we continued our walk. Well, he is soon to be 17, has a solid case of teen induced bi-polarity, occasionally allows his parents to see his real brilliance, knows more, thinks less, and is exactly where he is supposed to be. Oh he got in an accident the other night and after whining for over an hour about whether I would take away his license he decided not to drive for awhile... Hah, he'll do fine. Just think, we are most of the way through the teen run. I believe the next big one is around 35 when we get the call that his therapist would like us to come to a couple of his sessions.
I also have an 11yo daughter. She is my only girl among 4 children. I have such a different relationship with her than I did with my boys. You have put my feelings into words so well; thank you!
Wonderful.
I loved eleven in myself and my daughter. It is right on the edge of childhood. My daughter cried on her twelth birthday because she was aware that she was leaving childhood behind...
You will do great!
I fill your pain. SMILES! I loved reading this. I had two mini -me,
they were only 13 months apart both girls so I had my hands full. So I know what you are going through.
I think the pre-teens were hardest on them and myself. Keep your chin and just smile the aliens will bring your child back.lol They did mine (such).
Such a lovely girl, the only piece of advice I can give you since Her Maj is only 5 is Remember Hormones! Shudder...
Gosh all these mothers of mini-mes! In the delivery room, my very beautiful daughter was put in my arms. I fell in love at once, but I did think, "Well, it's clear who her father was, but who the heck is her mother?"
11 hmm? I teach children of that age. They have oftentimes mastered elementary school and are very comfortable with the world around them. It is a neat age, especially for the girls. They are generally more mature than their male counterparts and perform better in school. They are often confident and willing to behave like mature and responsible mini-adults in the classroom.

BUT, they hit a very difficult period when they reach middle school or junior high. If they have flaws of any sort, their peers will find them and rip on them. If they are pretty, precocious and perfect--then their classmates will rip on them for being just that. There is no escape. It's a rough time. Maybe it's just me, but I have more vivid memories of the rotten things I did to other kids at that age than I do of the rotten things they did to me.
I can only offer school-related advice when it comes to girls--especially teens--since I only have boys and they are younger than that.
1) Be the rock of love and support you already are. She will value her peers an inordinate amount in the next few years, but there are times she will really need you. Suddenly a school/peer friendship might turn south on her. Then she will need to cry on your shoulder. Of course, a week later they're best friends again and you have nothing but a soggy shoulder...but that's your job.
2) There is a lot of bile and ugliness being thrown around in middle school. It's unavoidable. Work very hard to try and insure that your child is doing as little of the throwing as possible. She may have to defend herself at times, but many kids seek out conflict at this age. Try to steer her away from that. And for heaven's sake, DON'T YOU START! Believe me, we have mom's who get in there to defend their child and end up cyber-bullying and rumor-mongering with the best/worst of the kids!
3) GENTLY encourage her to continue doing her best with her studies. Personality flaws or weaknesses are constantly attacked by her peers. She will strive to be perfect in their eyes. Don't pile on more pressure--but at the same time, don't let her completely fall off and focus on other things. I realize that's a difficult line to walk, but it's a necessity.

I think I just wrote a post instead of a comment. Sorry.