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Ugh, Don't Call My Kid My 'Mini-Me'

Photograph by Kristina Wright

"He's quite a storyteller. He's going to be a writer like you."

"It's cute how he is so into technology, just like your husband."

"I'm sure they'll love reading as much as you do."

Once you have kids, friends and family members (and even strangers in Starbucks) will try to make connections between you and your children. It's human nature, I think, to look for similarities and common interests. We even have a term for kids who look, dress and share their parent's interests: mini-me. As in, "He's such a little mini-me!"

Long before I had kids, I rolled my eyes at that term. But now that I have kids, I loathe the cutesy nickname all the more.

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My kids are not mini-mes or mini-my-husbands. Of course, they resemble one or both of us in looks and mannerisms and, occasionally, interests. But I'd no more call them "mini-me" than I'd call them clones. When my oldest son was born, he looked just like his father. Even in-utero, the resemblance between the grainy sonogram image and my husband's profile was uncanny. It was amazing, really, to watch genetics at work. As he's gotten older, people have said he resembles me, perhaps because up until last summer his hair was past his shoulders and I also wear my hair long, or maybe because he now wears glasses like I do.

I want them to find new interests and pursuits that have absolutely nothing to do with me or their father—because that's how you make interesting, well-rounded human beings.

But he, and his brother, are very much their own little people. And some days I marvel at how very different they are—not only from my husband and me, but from each other.

The mini-me nickname bothers me not because people say it—I know they don't mean any harm by it—but because of how my kids might process it when they hear it. "You look just like your dad," "You're going to be a writer like your mom," "You're going to follow in his footsteps."

What's the message that kids hear, again and again? They're like their parents. They are just like their mom or just like their dad. They are copies of an original. While it can be sweet to hear my son say, "I want to be a writer too, Mama," I don't want him to ever think I will be disappointed if he doesn't.

I want my kids growing up without limitations. I don't want them thinking that because I, or their father, followed a certain path that it is also expected of them. I don't expect my kids to join the military like their father did or to be education junkies like me.

Upon hearing that we have college funds set up for the boys, one friend said, "It's going to kill you if they don't want to go to college, isn't it?" Well, no, it won't. I was raised in a blue collar family, as was my husband. We chose different paths than our parents and if my kids choose some other path that doesn't include college, we'll support that. But should they want to attend college, we're preparing for it now.

The world is a different place than it was when I was growing up and what I thought was a must-do or a sure thing is no longer the case. I want my kids to know that, whatever they choose, we support them. Whatever their path, we'll be there to help light the way as best we can.

They don't have to be mini-mes, they don't have to even like or appreciate the same things we do. In fact, I don't want them to hear and internalize that message at all. I want them to find new interests and pursuits that have absolutely nothing to do with me or their father—because that's how you make interesting, well-rounded human beings. You give them a strong foundation upon which to build their own unique and separate identities.

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I'm not offended by the term "mini-me"—it's a silly phrase that is really more about the perceptions of the person saying it than it is about the little person they're referring to. But it's not a term I'll ever use with my own, or anyone else's, kids. I'd much rather discover the differences, the nuances that fall outside genetic predisposition, the unique quirks that make someone wholly original. Being a parent is an ongoing experience in science and sociology—the classic debate of nature versus nurture at play in every day life. My kids aren't mini-mes, any more than I was a mini-me of either of my parents. And I would haven't it any other way.

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