The Pain and Pride of the Parenthood Mirror

Parenthood is funny sometimes, and sometimes it is decidedly less funny. In fact sometimes it is downright disconcerting. Sometimes there are these moments when we look at our kids and instead of these darling individual personalities we normally see, instead, we see....a mirror.

Anyone who has children knows exactly what I am talking about. From the time a baby is born the family immediately starts commenting, "Oh he looks just like his daddy," or "She has her mom's smile." As they grow older and start exhibiting more personality the comments begin, "Oh she is stubborn just like her dad," or "He likes art just like his mom." We see familial resemblances and it helps connect us to our family.

Then there comes the moment when a child does something that is exactly like his or her parent and the horrible realization dawns, "Oh wow not just the good stuff gets handed down!" And sometimes it is a behavior or a personality trait that you feel almost guilty about disciplining because you can see yourself in it and realize exactly what is going on in that little head. It is those moments, in my opinion, that are some of the most challenging moments of parenthood. It is like seeing yourself before your parents and life had a chance to forge your actions for the better, or worse. It is uncomfortable and disconcerting and makes you examine yourself and your choices, and hopefully challenges you to continue to try and be better.

For those who have worked hard to overcome or struggle through a flaw (and we all have them) it can feel as though you are starting over from scratch watching your child struggle with the same issues. It can also be an amazing thing. It can help you realize how far you have come. People who have learned to suppress a temper they have come by honestly, or overcome shyness or any other trait that holds them back, can look at their child and understand where they are coming from and how to get them through. And sometimes the difficult answer is to just sit back and watch them walk the same painful path you yourself walked because it is clear there is no shortcut or easy answer.

That is how I feel about my middle child, Raindrop. She is her mother's daughter, as my family says, in all of her high-need, stubborn, intense, over-emotional glory. She is also painfully and cripplingly shy. Now, here is something only those who have known me for an excruciatingly long time am I.

Anytime I tell someone that I am shy I am usually met with disbelief and derision. Surely someone as apparently outgoing and talkative as myself couldn't possibly be shy. But, the fact of the matter is, it has taken me 12+ years of theater training and dozens upon dozens of performance and public speaking experiences just to get me to a point where I can fake it...most of the time. There are times, however, when that shyness still overtakes me. I can think of a recent time, a parent get-to-know-you function at my daughter's school. I was late and when I got to the door I saw everyone engaged and talking already and no matter what I tried to convince myself, I could not make myself walk in. So, I turned and left.

I see those moments in my Raindrop. I see the moments where she approaches a group of children, even children she knows, and she circles them. She looks for the "weak link," the one where she could single out to talk to in the most non-threatening manner. It kills me to watch this. The painful longing of wanting to belong to the group coupled with the paralytic fear of rejection. It is like watching my own childhood in a curly-haired mirror and my heart aches for her and all the pain she will probably go through figuring out how and where she fits in. I wish I could spare her this.

But, then I realize in some ways I already have. I was an adopted only-child. She is the middle child with two siblings living with her biological parents. Watching my kids I have realized, siblings shape and challenge you in ways no other relationship could. She is braver when her big sister is around and I think ultimately it will help her find her feet faster than I did. But, introducing her to theater, my medium for overcoming my own handicap, has given me unspeakable joy. She took to performing just as I did and in doing so, gave me a mirror that I could gaze into with pride and hope. I turned out okay. So will she. And it is possible, just possible that this new version, Amie 2.0 if you were, may even have more talent than I did. But, then again, that may just be the mother-colored-glasses talking.

Here is my girl performing as the Passenger Engine in a rendition of "The Little Engine that Could." Watching this without prior knowledge, you would never guess that the little girl in the yellow dress suffers from severe shyness. It was so much fun to see my little Raindrop shine!