You Can’t Control Your Kids, and That’s What’s Great About Them

I’m not sure if these two are besties yet, but I think they could have a beautiful friendship. They are both strong women, working and succeeding in traditionally male occupations.  They’ve both been called monsters, though one might be more fond of the title than the other.  They’ve both shared their life’s stories with the world, in hopes that they might be better understood.
So obviously, from all that, you know exactly who I’m talking about right?  Just in case you’re slow on the uptake, it’s Amy Chua and Nicki Minaj.  If you missed their imminent-friendship, don’t worry.  It took me a little while to make the connection too.  Then I heard a quote from Nicki Minaj, and all made sense, “I think [our kids will] definitely have my personality. … [Our kids will] have Drake’s intelligence. They’ll have his sarcastic wittiness that I love about him, and they’ll have his songwriting skills. I think we’ll just make a real creative bunch of kids.”

After reading this quote, I realized that Nicki Minaj is suffering from a problem that many women seem to be having lately.  I think it’s the same problem that got Amy Chua into so much trouble after her Tiger Mother anthem sounded more “ferocious animal” than “proudly maternal.”  They are both operating under the delusion that we can control exactly what our children will become.

Don’t misunderstand me – parents do have a large effect on their children.  There’s a reason we all spend so much time and energy debating parenting techniques, because we all really want to do it right.  We all really want to provide the most loving and nurturing environment for our children.  But I would venture a guess that we are all exceedingly terrified of all the things we can’t control about our kids.  We’ve been told for so long that every meal during pregnancy, every stressful week before the baby is even born, every month we spend nursing and every time-out we don’t enforce, all of it will have a lasting impact on our children.  We spend so much time worrying about how we might be ruining their lives, we forget that their lives aren’t actually ours to ruin.  Even if their heads may look a little bit smaller than ours (at least I hope so, because big-headed children are sad), they contain a mind that’s operated by a separate human being.  We have the opportunity to shape that mind, but only to a certain degree.

My daughter, at three years old, is more strong-minded and opinionated than I will ever be.  I’m not kidding.  It’s not just that she’s spoiled or always gets her way.  She doesn’t.  But whether she gets it or not, she knows what she wants.  This week, she told me the type of cupcake she wanted for her birthday party at daycare.  “I need Jessie cupcakes, Mama.  We like Jessie.  Maybe the cowboy for Owen.”  (Brenna has been on a Toy Story kick lately.)  However adorable or ridiculous that is, Brenna’s strong-willed behavior didn’t start with her terrible two’s.  As an infant, Brenna had certain songs she wanted to hear when you were singing her to sleep.  “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” was her favorite.  “Smile” from My Girl 2 was acceptable. ”Beauty and the Beast” was pushing her limit.  “When You Wish Upon a Star” and she was screaming her head off.  If I sang any of the first three songs, she cooed and closed her eyes.  If I deviated, she screamed.

My daughter is a strong-willed and decisive little girl.  As much as I would like to take credit for her strength, I would be lying.  As a child, I only wanted to make my parents happy.  As an adult, I’m more likely to go along with the crowd if it means avoiding conflict.  But my daughter, no matter where she got it, is a willful child.  I’m proud of that.  But I can’t take any credit for it.  No amount of good genetics or hours of piano practice will change my daughter’s innate strength, thank goodness.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, by all means, do all you can do to be a wonderful parent.  Nicki, go ahead and imagine what amazing children you might have.  But we should all be prepared to face reality when our children exhibit their own personality.  When they fail to learn the lessons we think we’re teaching, when their interests don’t match up to your perfectly planned extra-curricular schedule, be ready.  Be accepting.  Children may be small, and for a while, they’re even attached to you, but they aren’t your appendages.  All you can do is hope that those agonizing decisions you spent hours debating, only to make the wrong choice, don’t traumatize them too much.

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