From mini-me to not-me

McMurray Musings Connects

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Columnist

A quick Google search of the term: “Mini-Me,” brings up several hits on the movie character that made the name famous, of course. If one does the same search and adds the word “child”, however, the results are a bit more unusual and in my viewpoint rather concerning as it brings up article after article about children of celebrities who are referred to as “mini-me’s” of their famous parents. Perhaps of even more concern it also brings up average, everyday parents who refer to their children or consider them as “mini-me’s”.

Now, I want to be clear here: I think seeing a similarity between our children and ourselves is quite natural and quite common, whether it is in appearance or attitude. That’s part and parcel of that familial connection we have with our children, but when I was viewing some of the celebrity “mini-me” stories I couldn’t help but wonder about the children, already growing up in the long shadow of a famous parent, and how it might feel to be considered and named an extension of that parent as opposed to a separate person. And then I realized the problem might not end with celebrity parents, either.

One of the key turning points in a child’s life is when they begin to see themselves as distinct entities from their parents. The classic teenage rebellion is of course one of those moments in the development of self, but it occurs much sooner too, when children begin to recognize that other people exist separately from themselves and have their own thoughts, opinions and feelings. That development is not only healthy but necessary, and I have to wonder if our current tendency to view our children as miniature versions of ourselves might well delay this aspect of their development, and to their detriment.

Our children are not miniature versions of ourselves, even if they look like us or act like us on occasion.

Now, I don’t think parents do this with the intent to harm. I suspect few have really thought about it and simply think it’s funny or charming to refer to their kids as “minis” of themselves, but parenting is all about occasionally doing an instrument check and whether the tools we are using to parent are good ones.

Our children are not miniature versions of ourselves, even if they look like us or act like us on occasion. To view them this way is uncomfortably close to when we viewed children as possessions, belonging to us in the same way our sofa did. It diminishes their autonomy, their differences, and their uniqueness and may well set them up for future struggles with their own identities as they seek to separate themselves from their parents. None of us want to be seen as extensions of our parents or anyone else; we are unique individuals and we want to be seen as such.

Our children are no different.

There are even businesses that capitalize on the mini-me trend, suggesting that children are miniature versions of their parents and trying to cater to these parents who apparently see their children in this manner. Perhaps in this time of rampant “selfies” and an apparent self-absorption of almost epic proportions this should not be a surprise, and yet one has to consider the impact this could be having on our children.

Being a parent isn’t always easy – I know. One of the best things we can do for our children, though, is help them to develop a sense of self, as that sense is their defence against peer pressure as well as so many of the other pressures present in our world. If they have the ability to see themselves as distinct individuals – extensions of no one, including us – they are able to navigate the world with confidence and certainty, as they know who they are and are secure in their own identity. And in a world where self-identity can be one of the most difficult things to discover this is perhaps the most precious gift we can give our children.

Reject the mini-me – not the movie character, but the concept that children are in some way extensions of their parents. Acknowledge the similarities, but celebrate the differences, because those differences are why we have children in the end; not to put more of “us” into the world but to contribute some of our own legacy while also contributing something new and unique. Celebrate the “not-me” quality of our children, and recognize that seeing our children as “mini-me’s” has much more to do with ourselves than with our children. And if it is really all about our kids, not about us, then perhaps we can retire the concept of the “mini-me” and move on to seeing them in a manner that really is about them, and not about us.

– Connect Weekly –