One night, like usual, I was hurrying my teen along so that we could leave the house on time for a meeting. About to walk about the door, he said, “I gotta grab my bag and a water bottle.” I curtly replied, “You should have had those things ready before now!” 

My son turned to me and said fiercely, “I am not you!” I replied with a sassy remark about how I was well aware of that fact and had been since the day he was born. We scurried out of the house together and were on our way. 

But his comment hit me deeply in the heart. Does he feel like I’m trying to make him into a mini version of myself? Does he feel the pressure to perform like me or imitate me? Have I spent the last thirteen years of my life trying to mold his unique self into one like my own rather than embracing his individuality? 

Am I Doing This Mom Thing Right?

I think treating our kids like we treat ourselves is a pretty common way to parent. We do things that work for us, that make sense to us, and that are easiest for us. What happens when those things don’t work for our kids? How do we help our children be themselves and grow into their own unique souls instead of trying to squish them into the mold we have in our heads? 

I literally don’t know the answer and turned to the experts on this one. 

If you google “how to let kids be themselves,” dozens of articles show up. DOZENS. So, at least I’m not the only one who is struggling with this. (And knowing that I’m not alone does help!) 

These are the key take-aways from the articles I read. There are links to my favorite resources.

  • Raising kids is about THEM and not about our own egos. 
  • Parenting is not reliving our childhood dreams. It’s about our kid’s dreams.
  • We must let our kiddos try to do things in their own way.
  • Sometimes our kids find out who they are by figuring out who they aren’t. Let them embrace their various phases, no matter what we think.
  • Parenting can reveal how attached we are to what others think of us and our place in this world. Learning from these sometimes uncomfortable lessons allows us to partner with our kids as they grow instead of trying to control them. 
  • Allow kids to choose their own activities and interests. Do what you can to help them explore and try things they are interested in. 
  • Give them space to fail and experience natural consequences. And be there to support them when these hard moments happen. 

Let’s Enjoy Our Kids

It’s critical that I recognize that my son is not a miniature version of myself. Period. One of the really fun parts of parenting is getting to know our kids as they get to know themselves. We get to participate in their own discovery of what they like, learning what they are good at, and deciding what they want to do with all their passions. It’s a pretty big honor to get to play the role of coach, advisor and confidant in our kid’s lives as they grow up. 

Being a parent to our unique little ones is magic. We never know what they might do or become next. Let’s enjoy finding out! 

true to themselves

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Gretchen has lived in Colorado since she was 12 and never wants to leave. She has a 13-year-old son who is into having a good time, especially with sports and Fortnite. Together, they are navigating the teen world of puberty and growing up. She has a wonderful husband, having been surprised and blessed with a second chance at love. Their family enjoys playing board games, watching Avengers movies, and sharing dumb jokes over good food. In her free time, she loves to read, shop for purses, play games, watch football, laugh with her family, cook delicious food, and dream of the next home improvement project.