Raising Emma: Learning How to Parent a Tiny Version of Myself

Recently I read a post on Instagram that someone had made talking about how the older her daughter gets, the more she can see how her personality is influencing her daughter's. So much of the time, I feel the same way about both of my girls. As different as they are from each other, they are both just like me in their own ways. Sometimes, it can feel like God took all the most difficult parts of my personality, multiplied them by 1,000, and gave them to my daughters. Sophia inherited my anxiety and my perfectionism; Emma got my tendency to say EXACTLY how I feel and what I think, and they BOTH got my stubbornness (and while I'd like to say that their dad is partially to blame for this one, I know, in my heart, that's not really the case).

Parenting is all about picking your battles and finding a way to guide your children to making positive choices while letting them be themselves. But man, some days, these personality traits can make parenting so hard because I'm fighting against these little versions of myself. It's particularly true with Emma. Maybe it's because she most definitely has a mind of her own and isn't afraid to say what she thinks (like me). Or maybe it's because once she has her mind set on something, it's nearly impossible to compromise (also, like me).


Regardless, I sometimes find myself having to work extra hard to have patience with her and being too quick to scold her. And then I always feel really bad. Because she is the sweetest girl. Of course she has her not-so-wonderful moments, but most days, she is full of ideas and nice words and compliments. She tells me EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. that I am the best mommy ever. She is a wonderful sharer, even when other people won't readily share with her. She loves to help out at home- to help make dinner, or do special jobs for me or help her younger brother. She is silly and loves practical jokes. She will tell you EXACTLY how she feels, but wants to make sure that it doesn't hurt your feelings if she disagrees with you. Really, she just wants to be needed, and I can understand that. She is one of two middle children- both girls- and as a middle child myself, I remember feeling the same way. I thinkk we all just want to be noticed.

The other night, Emma's class had a big play at school. They've spent the last three-ish months "flying" around the world and learning lots about different continents, countries & cultures. And the culmination of that lesson was the annual "Around the World" show. Each of the kids was assigned a country, and they dressed in traditional clothes and taught the audience the things they learned about their country. They were each asked to bring some sort of food to represent their country, and afterward there was a little party. 

It was during this party that the school music teacher sought me out to talk about Emma. She told me, "I really think Emma will be President one day. She is just so SHARP. If she were the President, I would know I was in good hands". She told me about a comment she made- one that could be considered rude- but she didn't think it was. Instead, she was impressed with the quickness and wit of her answer.

Emma as a little girl from Kenya. She chose Africa because her uncle is from Liberia.

Emma as a little girl from Kenya. She chose Africa because her uncle is from Liberia.

So here's the thing. I always tell myself that if my kids behave well when they are out with other people, then we're doing a pretty good job. Home is the place where they should feel most comfortable and most able to be themselves. Where they should be able to express their opinions without worrying that they will risk losing someone's love or affection. And because of that, home is the place where they can fall apart, and scream and cry when they need to. This doesn't mean that it is ok to be disrespectful or hurtful. It simply means that they have a safe place to be themselves, and know that they will be loved no matter what. And hearing this teacher's perception of Emma was just a little reminder that we're doing ok.

And so, I'm trying harder. To be patient. To remind myself that she is only seven. That she wants to stand out in this large family of ours and that she might feel like she has to work hard to shine from the middle. To let her know that she is special and she is loved and I wouldn't change anything about her. Because what I know about Emma is this: these frustrating parts of her- they are GOOD things. As she grows and changes and navigates this world, these things will serve her well. Some day, she will develop a filter and learn to choose her words wisely and realize that compromise is a good thing (I think, for the most part, I did). But, until then, I will do my best to guide her to right choices while letting her be herself.