Nurturing Individuality: a Parent’s Greatest Gift

The importance of embracing your child’s uniqueness

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My greatest contribution to the wellness of humanity is having produced a psychologist: my son.

It was one of the greatest contributions to my personal wellness too. As every mother might confirm, having children is a game-changer in women’s life. To me, it meant that I had done a good job, that I was a healthy young woman (I was…), and that I could contribute to the human march towards the future. As I friend of mine told me: our children are arrows of ourselves loosed into the future. I’ve always loved this image: I love to figure out parts of my genetics shipped generations ahead.

From the very first days, I saw that my son had nothing of my character. He looks like me, I mean it’s clear he’s my son, as we both have blue eyes, fair hair and we are not very tall. He looks like his father too, in his features. But his character is just his own. He is much more resolute than me, he is certainly smarter (not that difficult). Besides, we don’t share almost any common interests: not the same sports, we do not read the same genres, and we do not dress even remotely in the same way. I am the smartest in this case.

This is the most common scenario: you love your children, but you do not mirror them. Well, let’s say that the image they reflect doesn’t adhere to yours.

Many parents wish to make their children just like them. However, nature always creates unique individuals. Even though children inherit DNA from both parents, they each have their own personality, traits, and preferences. Instead of celebrating these wonderful differences, some parents feel frustrated when their children are not exactly like them.

Indeed, some parents think that the best result of their education should be creating their perfect copy, or even better, an upgraded copy of themselves. I’ve heard too many times the sentence “I’m trying to make my son what I didn’t succeed to be”. Said more gently, I heard also the version “I want to give my son the chances I did not have”, underlying that the same targets must be achieved.

To me, this is the worst mistake any parent might stumble into. It’s even cruel to put such high expectations on your child’s shoulders. Can’t some people just respect their children’s aspirations? Apparently, someone really can’t. Some parents take their children’s choices as a personal failure. A friend of mine imposed on her daughter to graduate in Law, while she coveted a future as a musician (a very talented violinist, by the way).

It seems that becoming parents erases our memories as children. But if we dig into ourselves, I guess we all remember how unbearable it was to be considered our parent’s dolls. How did we live with their constant interference in our decisions? Didn’t we live them as a pure intrusion in our lives? I know that our parents had to guide us, and especially when we were a bit confused their guidance was the lighthouse of our journey. But sometimes, we deserved a bit of confidence that we were able to choose the right path.

Therefore, maybe, we should just switch the point of view: are you happy to be the perfect copy of your parents? In this living fractal, where parents replicate themselves, we might just become the carbon copy of our parents. Mistakes included. We might put in place the same behavior: guiding our children, even when our guidance is not necessary at all. In the end, we risk being intrusive.

Going back to my personal experience, when my son decided to move abroad (and very far) and when he told me he wanted to study movie acting… well, I was not that happy. I thought I had to guide him towards a more practical study course. But then I remembered the lesson of one of his teachers: “Let your child be himself, he deserves your trust.”

I decided to break the chain of copies, from parent to children, and I trusted him. I was sure he was going to choose the best. At least, he could have the chance to make his own mistakes and learn from them. But he wasn’t wrong: after studying acting he started working and he is now paying for his university study, in Psychology. I don’t know if he going to have a successful career or if he will earn a bunch of money. I know he’s happy and fulfilled, and that’s enough.

So, maybe you do not have to make your child the best of you, but you should give your child the best parent you can be. Even better: you should become the parent you did not have.

It’s not your child who must fill the gaps, between what you could have been and what you actually are. It’s you, who must stop the domino effect of replicating the same behavior, and stand up for your child’s freedom of choice.

I’m sure that someone reading this story will find himself reflected. Some other readers will have faced a different experience, full of trust and confidence. I hope these last ones are able, in this case, to replicate their parents’ behavior. A perfect replica.

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