When I fell pregnant in 2010 I knew it was a girl. It was instinctive. This was our little secret, baby and I, and it strengthened the bond that was already growing between us.
I recognised myself in Emily the moment she was placed on my chest. It was there in her eyes and in the shape of her mouth. Six weeks later she had my smile. My genes dominated her features, and when she grew into an inquisitive toddler I quickly realised that we shared many of the same personality traits too. She was sensitive, imaginative and eager to please. But she could also hold a grudge, and her tolerance levels for those she wasn’t sure of were non-existent. Separation Anxiety became a problem. We had to terminate a contract with one childminder because Emily was still crying for me (all day), six months later.
As first I indulged it. If I’m honest I was a little flattered. By luck or design I had created my Mini-Me, and we understood each other on a level that both comforted us and made light of our insecurities. Sometimes I felt suffocated but the sensation of those little fists wrapped tightly around my neck always outweighed the bad.
What I didn’t count on was the heartache coming my way when Emily hit school age. Right now it feels like I’m reliving the worst parts of my childhood all over again (the ones I’ve tucked away at the back of my mind for good reason.) But this time I have a bewildered six year old to comfort as well.
Emily’s smart. Reading, writing, maths… she just gets it. So did I. But nothing much has changed in the thirty years that separate our childhoods. Kids still don’t like it when one of their peer group shines, and they’re not afraid to say it. Last week Emily came home devastated because someone had belittled her for coming top in the class rewards system. The rage I felt in that moment scared me. I bleed like any other parent, my child’s pain is my pain, but it seems to hurt so much more with Emily because I’ve been there too. I’ve been that very same overly-sensitive little girl.
Talking it over with my husband later that evening, I came to realise just why my reaction had been so violent. I’m an adult now. I can stand up for myself in a way that Emily can’t. Still, as linked, as similar, as we are, I cannot fight her battles for her. I can only comfort and explain and offer up solutions like any good parent would.
As Emily grows older she’ll make the same mistakes as me and it will be agony to watch. I’ll find myself repeating the same castigations that my own parents bestowed on me. I’ll hold my breath when she breaks a curfew. I’ll keep my fingers crossed on GCSE results day. My Mini-Me will disappoint me in all the ways that I disappointed myself. But she’ll also make us both so proud that our eyes will swim. Of that I’m certain.
This post has also appeared as a Huff Post UK Parents Featured Blog