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I Was a Mini-Parent. Now My Kid Is, Too

When I was 6 years old my mom gave me the best gift any little girl could ever dream of: my very own real-life doll. This bite-size Ken would be my little brother. He was the cutest thing I had ever seen, and, as my mom says, I was completely obsessed with him before he was even born. All I did in school was talk about my little brother and how excited I was that he was going to arrive soon. And when he did, it was even better than expected.

I was older than him, so we grew up in completely different emotional stages. I took the role of protector without even noticing. I would be the one to stand up to other kids that tried to bother him. I was constantly making sure he was OK. I supervised his friends as he grew up. I turned into a mini-mom when he became an adolescent.

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I was more than OK to take on a role that I didn’t need to take on because our mom is wonderful. But a part of me always felt a sense of responsibility towards him. He became my best friend, my partner in crime, my support when I became a mother myself, and a shoulder to lean on through hard times

As a mom now, I realize something about my very own daughter. As parents, we tend to instill a sense of duty in our older children. The idea that they have to look out for their younger siblings. We ask them to help with small chores, to share their toys, to be a role model and to keep an eye on them when they’re playing.

But, are we going too far? Are we placing a burden on our firstborns that will potentially determine the way they interact with others? Are we taking away from their childhood and making them grow up too quickly?

I think, in some unintentional way, we are. We ask a lot from our children. I with my 6-year-old, I ask her to be us when we are not around. We do this forgetting that they cannot fulfill such an obligation without feeling guilty if they fail. We ask from them what was asked from us, because that’s how we grew up.

As parents, we must think about the long-term effects of the relationships between our children.

Studies show that older siblings tend to be the responsible ones, whereas the younger ones have more creative range. Do we take that possibility from our older kids when we ask them to be, even in the most minimal way, more mature than they should be?

As I look at my own life and how I’m always meddling in my brother’s life even now that he is an adult, I can’t help but wonder how much of myself am I placing on my daughter. She is smart, caring and nurturing by nature, and loves her little brother. However, I don’t want her to miss out on being free or to feel unable to make mistakes because I am requesting too much from her. I am asking her to be on a level of emotional growth that she shouldn’t be pushed to achieve, at least not until she is ready to do so.

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As parents, we must think about the long-term effects of the relationships between our children. Obviously, we want them to love each other and always be there for one another. But, I also think the role they play in each other’s lives should be that of siblings, and not mini-parents.

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Image by Dee Trillo

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