My daughter strongly resembles me, so much so that multiple strangers have commented on the likeness. She's got some of her daddy, too -- I've certainly got no claim on the infectious dimples -- but her hair, eyes, and button nose look like miniature versions of my own, and her facial expressions often leave me reminiscent of my own baby pictures.
Our personalities, as far as I can tell now, are more divergent. I'm quiet and shy, impatient but rarely outwardly so, and emotionally reserved; Elise lets it all hang out. She may not always feel like engaging with you, but if she does, she's completely uninhibited and outgoing. She gets frustrated quickly and loudly. When she hears music, she dances, whether she's at home, at Kohl's, or at Sunday Mass.
But I still see similarities. I like to think of her as outgoing, extroverted, and friendly -- and she often is -- but even when we're hanging out with other kids in a playgroup-type situation, she mostly wants to do her own thing, in a way that I recognize from my youth all the way up to this very moment, as I type this sentence, alone and utterly pleased about it as I sit in a little coffee shop. And I may not be showy with emotions, but my sentimentality runs deep, and when I see joy or anger or hurt shoot through her eyes, I feel them in my own heart, too.
Looking at my daughter, I find I often run the risk of seeing her as a little me -- I've even thought of her in those exact words, which I shouldn't. But I see her innocent little face, too young to dream of anything but the happiness she already knows, and I feel like I have a second chance.
And then I think -- a second chance for what? For living a life without mistakes? For getting everything right the first time and having no regrets? For living untouched by sadness and pain? My mother's instinct wants all of these things for my daughter, but my common sense knows them to be impossible in this world.
Regardless, the chance isn't mine. Elise's life does not represent an opportunity to live vicariously as her, but to live more fully as myself -- mother to her, wife to Colin, daughter to my parents, sister to my brother, and so on. Me. With all my inadequacies and my insecurities, but also all my talents, my joys.
Chief among those joys is watching my little girl grow up -- seeing her personality emerge, noting her preferences, developing our mother-daughter bond. And truly, I think that last part is what has left me the most "surprised by joy." Because as I was growing up and then getting married and then actually going through pregnancy and I imagined my "child," she was simply a little blank in my mind: I knew I'd love her, but I never really thought that much about how she'd love me.
How about you other moms out there? Do you ever find yourself thinking of your children as little yous? Only to realize that the beautiful mother-child relationship exists because there are two distinct people involved, not just a big and little version of the same person?