A friend said to my husband Steve and me recently, “Most people joke about having a ‘mini me’ but you two really do.” It’s true, our daughter is a facsimile of me and our son is a miniature of Steve. I’m not just talking about insane good looks either, I mean the whole package – quirks, talents, expressions, preferences. Perhaps it’s because Steve and I have worked at home parents since our eldest was born. At ages 11 and 7, Adrienne and Addison have already spent way more time with their parents than the average American kid.
It’s tempting to think our son Addison needs me more than Adrienne. He goes full steam into everything, so aware of the jumble of ideas blooming in his brain that he can totally miss social cues. His impulse control is often lost to his boyish vigor. We have friends and family who love Steve for his talents and strong character but his ‘mini me’ makes them tense up. They watch him with wary eyes and nervous chuckles. I feel I need to be his spokesman and defender as he grows into the man his father is.
Then there is Adrienne, blossoming teeny tween. She is my pride and joy, 100 times more beautiful and brilliant. Her approach to life is much different than her little brother. If he is a steam engine, she is a para glider: soaring silent and solo in the wind, studying her surroundings.
Adrienne is a competent, compliant kid who rarely complains. She makes friends easily, finishes homework and chores without reminders, keeps her room clean and obeys house rules. She asks permission before leaving the house or getting on the Internet. Last summer she decided she needed $50, so she sold subscriptions to her own local newspaper, gathering ads and articles all on her own. She has a Ziploc of candy that is accumulating because she knows her daily limits. Everything about her is measured and organized. She doesn’t need checking up on. Or does she?
Compliant Kids Are Needy Too
I remember vividly what it was like to be this type of child. I wasn’t the squeaky wheel. If I could get it done on my own, well then, why bother the adults? I liked following rules, gold stars on my report card, perfectionism, and the accolades of being a good girl. I didn’t speak up if something was bothering me; instead I made do and tried to be dependable and uncomplicated. Maybe I enjoyed the independence and the blanket approval; the lack of scrutiny could be terribly convenient, though dangerous.
Here is why good girls still need involved parents. We tend to take everything seriously; we are often introspective, analytical, and hard on ourselves. We try to maintain that independence even when we need a shoulder to lean, if not cry, on. Incidents others can blow off will start an avalanche of worry, until it feels like we’re suffocating. When I was in 4th grade I feigned illness and skipped school in order to avoid a bully. I could barely swallow from the anxiety.
In 7th grade I had a shop teacher, Mr. Brayton, who was verbally abusive. It was only one semester, but attempting power tools for the first time while trying to avoid his scrutiny scared me. I would lay awake at night dreading the next class. It was silly, in retrospect. I just needed someone to notice, a confidant that could offer empathy and perspective.
Understanding What She Needs
Parenting a daughter who is my mini-me can be challenging, but intuition comes readily. I work daily at creating face-to-face time. Both early risers, we have breakfast with each other while the boys snore on. It’s my opportunity to look in her eyes and listen well. I work at keeping the connection open. For some reason, it’s at her nightly tuck-in when Adrienne feels the most ready to be vulnerable. I make a point to not be too busy then and to pause my own thoughts. When a dilemma or drama crops up, she already has my ear.
Not only are her parents available, so is her heavenly Father. Her dad and I both make a regular habit of holding Adrienne and praying for her. We know life happens and sometimes we’re just not enough. II Corinthians 1:3 reminds us that “He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” His love wraps around our relationship and empowers us to parent, plus goes the distance that we cannot! A connected family will serve her well in this life, but a connection to God holds value from now through eternity.
Once Adrienne went for about a week withdrawn, not really her bubbly self. I couldn’t figure it out the specifics, but I recognized the pattern. So I worked harder to offer her time and affection that week, gently prodding at intervals . Finally, her internal struggle came pouring out in a ground swell of tears. She had read two books on her Kindle that were inappropriate. Her conscience weighed a million pounds and she felt so naughty. It was small potatoes really, but not to her, and oh, how I loved her for it! I relished the chance to help her through the trouble. Because I had made her feel seen and safe, she invited me deeper into her life.
Parenting is arduous, full of joy but requiring great reserves of strength. I want to encourage anyone who may feel like an outside observer to their son or daughter’s life, it’s worth the effort to double back and fortify that bond. Adrienne is a dream child, and she needs involved parents every bit as much as her brother. She brings joy to our family and great fulfillment to me as her mom. Though I want to press pause, I am also eager for the next 11 years!