Have you ever seen yourself so closely reflected in your child that you can hardly believe it? It could be something they say or the way they say it, the words or the expression. Or it could be a look or pose that you just know is yours as well. Sometimes it can be their ideas or views that you know you have heavily influenced.
My first recollection of such an experience happened many years ago now. It was a pose and expression that I saw myself reflected in my very young daughter. I can still recall the strong emotions it evoked in me. There were a few different and conflicting emotions actually now that I think back on it. At once I felt pride and pleasure that my daughter was so much like me. It was a very special thing.
On the other hand though, I also felt an incredible worry about the level of influence I could have over such a small child. I was reminded at that point just how important I was to her, how she must have noticed everything I did and how she was learning constantly from me, whether I intended it or not. I was her world and nothing I did would go unnoticed again. This felt like a huge responsibility, a weigh to carry. One of the weights of parenting I guess. One of the paradoxes of parenting - the weight along with the joy.
Over time though children learn to develop their own personalities,to see the world through their own unique eyes. Parents can walk beside them on their journey, providing guidance and yes, influence, but also encouraging them to think for themselves. To question, to have their own dreams and hopes so they become their own person. Their own experiences will start to influence who they are and, if given permission, they can challenge what their parents say, take on board whatever aspects of their parents' influence they wish to but ultimately become confident enough to make their own decisions and ultimately set their own life course.
It helps as a parent to remember just how influential we are and may continue to be as our children become young adults, and then have their own children. Although the relationship may change as they get older we are still their parents and what we do and say continues to hold weight. Tentatively offering advice and commenting sensitively could be the best approaches as they continue to look to us for direction and guidance as adults. Trusting them to be able to make decisions that are best for them will free us from the weight or responsibility it brings but also ensure they feel empowered and positive about who they have become now.